Ferguson fallout: Protests go national, officer resigns and viral photo gives hope

Posted at 5:24 AM, Dec 01, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-01 07:24:42-05

(CNN) — It’s been one week since the streets of Ferguson boiled over after protesters learned the officer who shot teenager Michael Brown won’t face criminal charges.

Since then, much has changed. And much hasn’t.

Here’s what to know to get up to speed on the Ferguson fallout:


Calls for a walkout:

The looting and arson that marred last week’s protests are over. But the demonstrations continue in Missouri and across the country.

Activists are calling for students to walk out of school and employees to walk off the job nationwide at 1 p.m. ET Monday to protest police violence.

And over the Thanksgiving weekend, Ferguson-area organizers called for a Black Friday shopping boycott, forcing the St. Louis Galleria Mall to shut down temporarily on the busiest shopping day of the year.

St. Louis officials urged Galleria retailers to close security gates after several hundred protesters entered the mall and disrupted shopping.

Protesters chanted “Hands up, don’t shop,” while others lay on the floor in a “die-in.”

If supporters did shop, they were told to take their money to black-owned businesses, some of which were listed on social media. Brown, the teenager, was black; Officer Darren Wilson, who shot him, is white.


Wilson resigns:

He’s been in hiding for most of the 3 1/2 months since the shooting. And now Darren Wilson is no longer a Ferguson police officer.

“I have been told that my continued employment may put the residents and police officers of the City of Ferguson at risk, which is a circumstance that I cannot allow,” Wilson, 28, wrote in his resignation letter.

“For obvious reasons, I wanted to wait until the grand jury made their decision before I officially made my decision to resign. It was my hope to continue in police work, but the safety of other police officers and the community are of paramount importance to me. It is my hope that my resignation will allow the community to heal.”

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said there will be no severance pay for Wilson’s resignation.

It’s not clear what’s next for Wilson, whose lawyer said has been receiving death threats.


Nationwide conversations:

President Barack Obama will hold a series of meetings Monday stemming from the Ferguson unrest.

First, Obama will meet with his Cabinet to discuss results from a review he ordered in August looking into federal funding to local and state law enforcement agencies.

Then he will speak with young civil rights leaders in the Oval Office. Finally, he will meet with elected officials, community and faith leaders as well as law enforcement officials to discuss how communities and law enforcement can work together to build trust.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder will launch a series of nationwide conversations following the upheaval from Ferguson. On Monday evening, he will meet with law enforcement officers, local officials and other community leaders at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Details of Holder’s next stops have not been released.

Holder has opened two civil rights investigations in Missouri — one into whether Wilson violated Brown’s civil rights, the other into the police department’s overall track record with minorities.


New initiatives:

Ferguson’s mayor outlined new initiatives in an attempt to forge a better relationship between the city’s police department and the community.

Knowles announced a new civilian review board to provide input on police efforts as well as a scholarship program to try to recruit more African-American officers.

Even though the majority of Ferguson is black, only about four of the 50-some officers on Ferguson’s police force is black.


Silent message:

Several St. Louis Rams players sent a silent but strong message before they took the field Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

The players raised their palms in the air, repeating the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture that protesters in Ferguson have been using for months.

But the move infuriated the St. Louis Police Officers Association, which issued a statement saying it was “profoundly disappointed” with the group of Rams “who chose to ignore the mountains of evidence released from the St. Louis County Grand Jury this week.”

“The gesture has become synonymous with assertions that Michael Brown was innocent of any wrongdoing and attempting to surrender peacefully when Wilson, according to some now-discredited witnesses, gunned him down in cold blood,” the police association wrote.


A touching sight:

After all the images of screaming, burning and anguish over the past week, one poignant image has been shared more than 150,000 times: a picture of a young black boy and a white police officer hugging.

The photo, taken in Portland, Oregon, came after 12-year-old Devonte Hart was holding a sign offering “Free Hugs” at a protest against a grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson. The boy had tears streaming down his face.

Portland police Sgt. Bret Barnum said he approached Devonte “not as a police officer, but just a human being” when he saw him crying. Devonte seemed hesitant to talk at first, but Barnum said he broke the ice by talking about life, travel and summer vacations before asking for a hug.

“The situation itself is something police officers do every day when they go out on the street and make citizen contacts,” Barnum told CNN.

The Oregonian newspaper was the first media outlet to publish the photo by 20-year-old freelance photographer Johnny Nguyen.

Nguyen told CNN he attended the rally just to take pictures for himself. Then he saw the exchange between the officer and the boy.

“I thought, what a great scene,” Nguyen said. “A powerful scene. A scene with a message that needed to be communicated. A scene of coming together.”

CNN’s Emanuella Grinberg, AnneClaire Stapleton and Faith Karimi contributed to this report.

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