In August, 2014, Complex NEWS traveled to Ferguson, Mo. to cover the unrest caused by the shooting death of Michael Brown—an unarmed black teenager—by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Word of his death spread through his neighborhood, his city, and eventually reached the national news.
In the days that followed his death on August 9, residents took to the streets to protest police brutality, going toe to toe with law enforcement armed with military-grade technology. The drama centered around a small section of West Florissant Avenue, not far from where Brown was killed. As the tactics of the police became more aggressive—tear gas deployed against protesters before the curfew; tear gas deployed against the press; sound cannons and rubber bullets—the country became more and more dialed in to the struggle.
One of the residents protesting was Jarris Williams, a then 19-year-old north St. Louis county resident who grew up in Ferguson. He spoke with Complex News about the problems his community had lived with for as long as he could remember, highlighting issues beyond police brutality, like poor public education and economic disparity.
In the midst of preparing for his first year of college, Jaris became politically activated in a visceral way. Speaking with him last year about his protesting and the internal conflict it created, he said, “I feel like Bruce Wayne during the day, and at night I’m Batman.”
His fight didn’t end when the news crews left. As the Black Lives Matter movement materialized in the remainder of 2014 and expanded into 2015, Jarris stayed active by protesting with friends. His ideas and feelings about his place in Ferguson, and in America at large, grew and evolved.
Reconnecting with Jarris—now 20 and a rising sophomore at Webster University—he opened up to us about the past 12 months. Through our conversation, he shed light on the city that’s become the symbol for racial injustice in our nation. This is Ferguson one year later, as seen through the eyes of one resident.