Michael Brown shooting: Ferguson officer Darren Wilson was ‘doing his job’ says growing band of supporters
Darren Wilson has received death threats since shooting the 18-year-old, but locals are speaking out on his behalf
On the streets of Ferguson, a community racked by racial unrest, police officer Darren Wilson is vilified by protesters for shooting and killing an unarmed black man.
Away from the front lines, however, a growing band of supporters is starting to speak up for the white policeman, saying he is being unjustly attacked for doing his job.
Mr Wilson, who is under investigation for shooting 18?year-old Michael Brown on 9 August, has been in hiding since the incident brought to a boil simmering racial tension in the St Louis suburb. Police have released little information about the 28-year-old officer whose own police chief described him as a gentle and quiet man.
A grand jury has begun hearing evidence to determine whether he should be charged in Mr Brown’s death. A spokesman for the St Louis county prosecutor, Bob McCulloch, said there was no timeline for the process, but it could take weeks.
The US Attorney General, Eric Holder, has sought to build confidence in the investigation into the death of Mr Brown. Mr Holder, who is black, said on Wednesday he understands why many black Americans do not trust the police and that he had experienced the same frustrations. He described being stopped twice on the New Jersey Turnpike and accused of speeding. Police searched his car, looking through the boot and under the seats.
“I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had on me,” he said during a meeting with about 50 community leaders at the St Louis Community College.
Tensions appeared to have eased in Ferguson, enough at least for Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to order the National Guard to begin withdrawing from the town.
Meanwhile, at Barney’s Sports Bar in St Louis, where a weekend rally in support of Mr Wilson is planned, patrons at the establishment, owned by a police officer, said they worried that he was not being given the benefit of the doubt.
“I think he’s innocent until proven guilty. In fact, I know. That’s the constitution,” Paul Beauregard Morton, who works in financial services, said as he sat at the bar. “I’m going to wait until the facts come out. That’s what everyone should be doing.”
For many protesters in Ferguson, a mostly black suburb, Mr Wilson is emblematic of a predominantly white police force that they say targets blacks, treating them like second-class citizens. Near the spot where Mr Brown was killed, a man held a placard on Wednesday bearing pictures of Mr Wilson and reading: “We demand justice.” But at the “I Support Officer Wilson” Facebook site, which had more than 50,000 “likes” this week, most people posting comments saw Mr Wilson as being caught in a risky situation where he was acting in a professional manner.
One Facebook user, Kevin Chicwak, wrote that Mr Wilson and the Ferguson Police Department were being found guilty without due process “by the liberal media”. Mr Chicwak wrote: “My family and I stand by them. Keep the faith.” But the site has also been riddled with racially charged comments, prompting the organisers to warn that anything that crossed the line into hate speech would be deleted.
The New Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan said on its website it planned a fundraiser in Sullivan, Missouri, over the weekend and had members going to areas near Ferguson to guard white businesses.
Meanwhile, more than 2,000 people have contributed about $85,000 (£51,000) to a site on gofundme.com, offering financial support to Mr Wilson. He has faced death threats and has not spoken publicly about why he fired multiple shots at the teenager after a confrontation in the street near his squad car.
People describing themselves as friends of Mr Wilson have tried to present a different narrative to deflect blame from the officer on television and radio. “He’s a really quiet guy,” one friend, who asked not to be named, told ABC News. “He’s just really well-mannered. He’s very respectful.”
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