Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ferguson Protesters React to Leaked Darren Wilson Testimony, Michael Brown Autopsy

Posted By on Thu, Oct 23, 2014 at 9:55 AM

click to enlarge Students hit the streets for a national day of protest Wednesday, the day two more leaked reports about Michael Brown and Darren Wilson were published. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Danny Wicentowski
  • Students hit the streets for a national day of protest Wednesday, the day two more leaked reports about Michael Brown and Darren Wilson were published.

Reporting by Mitch Ryals, Danny Wicentowski, Lindsay Toler and Jessica Lussenhop

The investigation into the death of Michael Brown has sprung a leak.

Three leaks, in fact. First, the New York Times published details from the Ferguson police officer who fatally shot Brown, Darren Wilson. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch then got its hands on the official autopsy. And finally the Washington Post announced that several black witnesses have given testimony that matches Wilson's version of events.

See also: Darren Wilson Tells Why He Feared For His Life Before Shooting Michael Brown: NYT

After months of keeping a tight lid on the grand jury and civil rights investigations into Brown's death, the leaks feel like a little more than coincidence, especially as the city braces for the potential violence if Wilson is not indicted with a charge in Brown's death.

So what's really going on here? The Department of Justice said it best, to the Los Angeles Times: "The department considers the selective release of information in this investigation to be irresponsible and highly troubling. Since the release of the convenience-store footage, there seems to be an inappropriate effort to influence public opinion about this case."

(Need a reminder on what the convenience store footage was all about? Read our story: Michael Brown Police Report: Photos Suggest Robbery Beforehand, Limited Other Details)

The St. Louis American, a local newspaper aimed at black readers, denounced the reports from anonymous sources as "anonymous third-party hearsay" and criticized the editors at the Post, the Times and the Post-Dispatch for "show[ing] a lapse in judgement and ethics that is not only shameful but actually dangerous.

"We declare a mistrial in the court of public opinion," the American says in an editorial.

So if the person(s) leaking reports to local and national press are trying to affect public opinion, is it working? What do Ferguson protesters and Brown family supporters think now, as unofficial reports seem to support Wilson's account of what happened on Canfield Drive on August 9?

Daily RFT reached out to some of the familiar faces at protests and Brown family gatherings over the last few months. Here's what they have to say:

While St. Louis fears the uproar that a non-indictment of Wilson would bring, Pastor Carlton Lee has a different fear.

"My biggest fear throughout this is there will not be any justice served for Michael Brown," says Lee, who counsels Michael Brown Sr., and his wife, Cal, at the church they attend. Lee may be a man of faith, but he says he has no faith in America's judicial system after witnessing how it hurts people.

"From a pastoral view I want to believe the family will get justice," he continues. "From the reality of it, I'm going to be honest, I don't see it. I don't see it, and that scares me."

Lee called the New York Times report leaking details of Wilson's testimony "a slap in the face" to the family. Lee says Brown Sr., the father of Michael Brown, told him, "The way I really feel is they walked up to my son's grave, spit on his grave and desecrated his grave."

Lee says the leaks are damning not only to the integrity of the official investigations into Brown's death but also into the integrity of the journalism outlets covering it.

"All this information that's being released, it's completely negative in regards to his child," Lee says. "You would think that if you never met Michael Brown Jr., you'd think Michael Brown Jr., was some aggressive thug, and it wasn't the case at all."

Louis Wilson, a Ferguson resident of fifteen years and founder of the One Love Coalition, is skeptical that the trickling release of grand-jury testimony is an accident or coincidence.

"I don't think they're leaks," he tells Daily RFT. "I truly believe they're systematic calculations of release of information."

click to enlarge Louis Wilson, left, protests outside the Ferguson Police Department. - MITCH RYALS
  • Mitch Ryals
  • Louis Wilson, left, protests outside the Ferguson Police Department.

Wilson harkens back to the few days after Mike Brown was killed and St. Louis County Chief of Police Jon Belmar gave a statement saying Brown tried to take Wilson's gun.

"The moment they said Brown tried to take Wilson's gun, they knew they weren't going to charge Darren Wilson," he says. "The reason the grand jury is taking so long is they're giving the people time to cool off. And now they're realizing the people aren't going to cool off.... How long can you actually put it off without the dumbest of the dumb saying, 'OK, you're pulling something over on me now.'"

Wilson, 59, who has been a regular peaceful protester throughout Ferguson since Brown's death, says the root of the problem, and what many protesters are mad about, is oppression of black people. Voting is the only way to change the status quo, he says.

"There's only one thing blacks haven't tried, and that's registering en masse, voting en masse and getting people in office that actually serve the people and don't serve big money," he says. "If that doesn't finally end the oppression of black people in America, then I won't know what to do."

Hear from more protesters and Brown family supporters on page two.

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