Ferguson unrest: Google Trends shows what people want to know about the shooting of Michael Brown

The teenager's death sparked widespread protests

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The Independent US

A year since a white police officer shot unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, his family, loved ones and protesters have ensured that the teenager’s tragic death has returned to public attention with protests and a memorial march.

On Sunday, Michael Brown’s father led a rally through the Missouri city in memory of his son, who was shot dead by Darren Wilson on 9 August 2014.

The rally was preceded by a weekend of peaceful protests, which were marred by pockets of looking and violence late on Sunday evening, when police shot and critically wounded teenager Tyrone Harris in a gunfight which he allegedly initiated.

As Ferguson has made international headlines once again and Google Trends has released the top questions users are asking about the city, we give the answers.

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Ferguson came under an international spotlight after the shooting (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Where is Ferguson?

A so-called Rust Belt county, the history and demographics of St Louis, where Ferguson is situated, play an important part in Brown’s death and the resulting reaction.

At the end of the nineteenth century, St Louis cut itself off from outlying areas, sparking an exodus which blighted the county past 1970. This created a poverty-stricken urban core, encircled by middle-class suburbs, and many white people left the area. The black population then moved into the suburban areas.

Compounding this is the fact that St Louis has been one of the nation's most segregated metropolitan areas, according to the New York Times, with black people being banned from most St Louis suburbs until the late 1940s.

In addition, the demographics on Ferguson have shifted dramatically. In 1990, almost three quarters of Ferguson’s population was white, and 25 percent black. A decade later, the percentage had shifted to 52 percent black and 45 percent white. By 2010, the 21,000-strong population comprised of 67 percent black and 29 percent white.

However, last year, African Americans made up only 5.6 per cent of the police force.

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Police stand guard as protesters demonstrate against the death of Michael Brown, one year on. (Image: Getty)

And as the black population has only risen recently, African Americans struggled to secure positions of authority, Jeff Smith, an assistant professor of urban policy at the New School, explained in the New York Times.

On top of this, St Louis is made up of 90 municipalities with their own authorities and police forces. These in turn secure revenue from traffic tickets and fines - meaning primarily white police officers pull over black people, wrote Smith.

And while the vast majority of stops, searchers and arrests were of black people, police were more likely to find contraband on white drivers - 34 percent versus 22 percent.

Since Brown was killed, steps have been taken to rebalance the power structures in Ferguson, after the government released a highly critical a report on its police and municipal court system, which prompted top city officials to resign. A new black police chief, city manager, municipal judge have since replaced white leaders. Many new councillors are also black.

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A photographer runs by a burning building during a demonstration on November 25, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Image: Getty)

When did the Ferguson riots start?

A day after Brown was gunned down, protests which followed a candlelight vigil on West Florissant Avenue quickly escalated as people smashed windows and looted stores. Protesters would continue returning to the streets for ten consecutive days, and it is not fair to label all of those involved as rioters.

In those ten days, the authorities scrambled to stop people gathering in the streets, with President Barack Obama calling for calm; the state governor declaring a state of emergency and imposing a midnight curfew, and the National Guard descending on the city. 

Further unrest erupted in November 2014, when a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson.

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A demonstrator holds a sign reading "Dont Shoot" with images of Michael Brown on 17 August 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Image: Getty)

What happened in Ferguson?

On 9 August, Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson left a convenience store, where the former was allegedly shown stealing cigarillos on CCTV.

Wilson, who was in his police vehicle, told the pair to move onto the sidewalk and notices Brown fitted the description of a suspect in a convenience store theft. After calling colleagues, Wilson moved his car to block the pair as well as traffic.

Brown and Wilson then engaged in a scuffle, while the officer was seated in his car. Wilson then fired two shots from inside the vehicle - one of which hit the teenager's hand.

As the teenager ran from the scene, Wilson left his car and chased him.

However, Brown’s next movements were contested. In a grand jury testimony, Wilson defended shooting Brown by saying that the teenager had charged towards him through gunfire “like I wasn’t even there”.

Other witnesses said that Brown held his hands up before moving towards the officer and charging, according to a Justice Department report published earlier this year. 

Brown died at the scene.

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Darren Wilson, who shot Michael Brown (Image: Getty)

Where is Darren Wilson now?

Some six day after Brown was shot on 9 August, the authorities revealed that Wilson was the killer, and he was plunged into the internationals spotlight. While he was the focus of anger for many protesters, others groups supported and raised money for him. Months later in November, he resigned shortly after a grand jury decided not to indict him.

Wilson still lives in St Louis, at an address known by only a few friends, according to the New Yorker. He told the magazine that he has tried to find police work elsewhere, but has been unsuccessful.

Wilson and his wife Barb live a secluded life, but he told the magazine they visit restaurants now and again.

“We try to go somewhere - how do I say this correctly? - with like-minded individuals,” he said. “You know. Where it's not a mixing pot.”

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Michael Brown Sr., center, pauses with loved ones at a plaque near the spot where his son was shot (Image: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

When did Michael Brown die?

Wilson shot Brown at 12:02pm on 9 August 2014. To mark the moment on Sunday, a rally led by his family observed four and a half minutes of silence – reflective of the four and a half hours his body lay street for four and a half hours after he was killed. Two doves were released at the end.

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