There are three African-Americans and nine whites serving on the grand jury that will decide the fate of Darren Wilson, the rookie police officer who shot and killed Mike Brown in August. Nine of the 12 jurors must agree that there is enough probable cause to believe Wilson committed a crime in order for him to be indicted. Though no one knows exactly when the announcement will happen, the decision of the grand jury, which is reconvening tomorrow, will be made public very soon.
It is one of the most highly-anticipated news stories of the year. There are sensationalized developments centered on arrests, foiled bomb plots, and stockpiled riot gear daily, but those stories are just that, sensational. There's an entirely different, parallel narrative that isn't getting the same sort of attention even though it is more compelling. We interviewed three men in Ferguson to get the pulse of the city before the Darren Wilson grand jury decision is announced. Here's what they had to say.
"If they could only see what we doing, it would change the world." —Darren Seals, 27
Darren was born and raised in Ferguson and has been friends with Mike Brown’s family since he was a child. He is a member of D.O.A., a rap group, and Hands Up United. (@KingDSeals)
At this point, I think everyone knows [Wilson won't be indicted]. They basically told us a long time ago he was going to walk. They’re not interested in investigating this murder, they’re not interested in finding out the real facts. They’re just interested in making sure no one loots, no one burns a building. They’re really not concerned with the life of Mike Brown. They’re more concerned with property and materialistic things, things that you can get back. But you can’t get Mike Brown back. That just shows you the essence of where we’re at in America right now. It’s terrible that a young boy can lie in the streets for four and a half hours and no one really cares until a QuikTrip burns down and a couple of stores get looted. I mean, all of the things lost in those stores can be replaced, but we can’t replace his life.
I believe that the national media has been using [Mike Brown's case] in a way to make people distracted from the real issues. They are so focused on looting, looting, looting, looting, but if it's not the longest protest, this has to be one of the longest consistent protests in history. Period. In American history. We’ve been protesting for over 100 days straight. Nonstop. Everyday we’re doing something different [...] just positive work and spreading knowledge and spreading affection and getting people involved. We got kids getting involved and are getting people registered to vote. I mean, my mom literally voted for the first time because of this. There’s been a lot of positive activity, but they don’t cover any of that. They make it out to be this war zone, but you come to Ferguson, it’s like family zone. Our community has turned into one. I’ve lived in St. Louis all my life. Ferguson is St. Louis. They make Ferguson out to be a different St. Louis. No. Ferguson is St. Louis [...] it’s beautiful. We have whites, blacks, Asians. We have all different type of people who have come out to protest.
The system was designed this way. The system isn’t broken. The system is working perfectly fine because it was designed to work this way from day one.
It’s important that people stop feeding into the same old lies. Even if you’re on the fence with this, ask yourself this question: How many unarmed black boys, teens, men have to be shot down by police before people actually get the picture? All these people aren’t guilty. It is no way possible that all these unarmed men are being shot down in the middle of the street dead and it’s all justified. I look back in history, I have never seen a white cop go to jail for shooting a unarmed black male.
We can go back to Emmitt Till, we can go to Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Jordan Davis. In St. Louis we got Cary Ball. Cary Ball was an armed, unarmed black man. He had a gun, he throws his gun on the ground, puts his hands up, looks at his witness and says, “Thank god you’re here.” The cop walks up to him, says something to him, puts a gun in his chest, and shot him. The witness saw him, saw everything, testified. Matter of fact, more than one witness testified. They always say they don’t agree with the looting and the rioting, and the boycotts, but even if you don’t agree with it, understand this: Without that, you wouldn’t know who Mike Brown was. You know why? Because Cary Ball’s life is proof.
There was no riots. There was no fighting. There was no uproar. There was no looting. You know what [Cary's] mom, his dad, his brothers and sisters did? They did protests. They went to the police station, they filed their paperwork, they did everything the “right” way, the way law says. You know what? No one knows Cary Ball. No one cares about Cary Ball except the few people in St. Louis that know about the story. His mother has been fighting for years, and the two cops still haven’t been charged. Now you tell me what’s the difference between him and Mike Brown. The only difference is the people came out, showed up, and made it into world history.
Mike Brown is not the first one. Not in this city. Not in this country. Not in this world. It happens every 28 hours and the only way to prevent that is by becoming intelligent. The more intelligent we become, the less laws we break. The less laws we break, the less money they make off our ignorance. We paying for our own extermination. The system was designed this way. The system isn’t broken. The system is working perfectly fine because it was designed to work this way from day one. This is a system that goes back to slavery. When we were slaves, when they said “We the people,” they didn’t mean us. They meant white people.
What black people got to do is we got to become more conscious of what’s going on. We got to become more educated and we have to learn from these situations. These are atrocities. It’s just so sad that so many people are dead. When this is all over and it’s not a story no more, his mom is still going to have to live with that. She’s going to look at her son’s room and realize he’s never coming back. No more Christmas. No prom. No college graduation. No wife. No kids. No career. No nothing. You’re dead forever.
"There has to be resistance before there's a revolution." —Jarris Williams, 19
Jarris is currently studying education and theater at Webster University, the same school Mike Brown was to attend two days before his death. (@AngryIsJarris)
The protester community here is very tight-knit, not to say that no one will be let in. Anyone who wants to be a part of it, who is genuinely into the cause, will be let in, but we all know each other, and I think that’s one of the coolest parts about it. It’s mostly a young person thing, but that’s not on purpose necessarily. I guess it’s just that the young people have the energy, the young people have the focus and the drive. And we want to be out there, as cold as it gets, as tired and sick as we get, we want to be out there fighting for our lives.
We may not live to see the re-education of the black man, the re-beautification of the black woman, and the reconstruction of the black family.
No one is speaking about military action and shit like that, like we’re going to go and cut some motherfucker’s heads off. That’s one of the hugest misconceptions, that [certain protesters] care very little about the cause, and all they care about is being angry. Well, we all care about being angry, and I don’t demean anybody for expressing that anger however they see fit because that’s their choice.
We are really working toward non-violent, direct action and resistance because even if it was to come to a head like that, now isn’t the time for it because you have to build a revolution over time, and right now isn’t the time for revolution. There has to be resistance before there’s a revolution, and we have to have more numbers before there’s a revolution. And things just aren’t ready to turn that way. So if we prematurely try to turn it that way, they’re just going to kill all of us.
The worst thing that could happen isn’t violence, the worst thing that could happen is that no one does anything. I would much rather there be violence than nothing happening. It won’t be peace. It’ll be exactly what it’s been for the past 45 some-odd years. Even before that. I’m just counting back to the civil rights movement. It’s just stale tension. "We don’t like you, you don’t like us. Let’s just not deal with each other." But that’s not the way to go either. So the absolute worse thing that could happen is nothing because then the education doesn’t happen.
We may not live to see the re-education of the black man, the re-beautification of the black woman, and the reconstruction of the black family. But we’re in a position to put those actions in place, and to put the foundation down for the next generation to be able to build upon that by showing our pride and our dignity, and say that this has to end. All a revolution is is turning something around, and if you want to turn something around, you have to stop it from spinning one way. What we’re trying to do is to stop it from spinning out of our favor so that the next generation can turn that revolution the other way.
"People are not prepared to deal with a militia. They're not prepared." —Namón Jones, Sr., 26
Namón lives in University City, Mo. He is a "musician, an artist, producer, slash everything else" and has been protesting in Ferguson for months.
St. Louis as a whole, it’s definitely been a different air ever since all of that happened. I can get on Facebook or Instagram, and there’s going to be something about the case on there, every single day since it happened. People have been gathering, and there’s been group meetings, council meetings and whatnot. What’s going to be done? Some people are preparing for war, some people are preparing to keep their kids in the house, schools are trying to make sure that they don’t [announce the grand jury decision] too close to school time. Basically everybody’s preparing for chaos. It’s kind of looking like he’s going to get off, and it’s always looked like that from the jump.
It just got to a point where people were fed up with police brutality, and we’ve dealt with murder and everything else for the longest. People just got to the point where it was like, "We need to do something about it."
As far as my response, I have a son who will be 6 years old in January. In terms of his well being and making sure I maintain my fatherhood, I’d stay out as long as I possibly could, but at the end of the day it really depends on how the people around me are going to accept whatever this verdict may be, or non-verdict. Personally, I don’t like the system [...] I don’t put anything past anybody. Them letting him get off is just kind of normal at this point. You get a few people where so-called “justice” is served, but as a whole, the system does not provide justice. It provides income for a hierarchy of people. But seeing as this is my city, and these are the people around me, tensions are high ever since. Halloween wasn’t even the same because certain people weren’t trick-or-treating and certain people weren’t giving out candy. Police were out a lot more because the tension never really calmed down.
It’s the same divide and conquer mentality that they have instilled in you all and you’re constantly regurgitating that same mentality on these streets.
They’ve been procrastinating so much with this verdict. It was supposed to have been dropped last month. [Then] it was supposed to be early- to mid-November, and we’re past mid November. The most terrible outcome I could imagine is if people, in their lack of knowledge and lack of actual follow through, meet their death. I’m a very critical and analytical individual, so everything is supposed to be practical. A lot of guys out here are just running with guns, and feel like they can go shoot at the police and the army, but they don’t get that these guys are trained. This is toe-to-toe.
The biggest problem I could see is there’s a substantial bloodbath because people just want to be idiots. I didn’t really attend many of the [council] meetings because most of these people weren’t moving in the same way I was moving. A lot of people were making this more racial, and of course, at this point [protesters are] all one and the same in terms of treatment. Of course there are going to be cops on one side, but they kill white folks, black folks, Mexicans, everybody when they feel like it.
This is a bigger issue, but a lot of people are turning this into a black and white thing. It’s the same divide and conquer mentality that they have instilled in you all and you’re constantly regurgitating that same mentality on these streets. That’s why I didn’t go [to the council meetings]. You need an actual wall of people all fighting for the same cause, not some people fighting for justice and some people fighting because they’re black and they feel singled out. People have their truth, and at the end of the day, it’s more of a unified interaction that we need.
I feel like everybody’s coming together and it’s just going to be war. People in St. Louis, we’ve always been top-five crime rate city, every year. A lot of people died since the Mike Brown situation. People die out here all the time. The unity I saw in the streets when Damien [Scott] was down here and the rest of that group, they all got to see how people were really interacting. We always see a bunch of beef, a bunch of people with guns trying to shoot each other, trying to rep for this side or rep for that side. I’m hoping that people come together.
If this thing is going to be hands-on, let it be hands-on, but do it tactfully. I just don’t want a bunch of dead bodies to end up on my timeline on Facebook or be on the front page, or be right there in the street. People are not prepared to deal with a militia. They're not prepared. It’s definitely crazy out here, I’ll tell you that much. It will be crazier.
All interviews as told to Lauretta Charlton. She tweets at @laurettaland.