August 9, 2015 marks the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s killing at the hands of Darren Wilson—a then-police officer in Ferguson, Missouri—and the ensuing protests that kept the nation glued to their cable news stations of choice. The last year has been a tumultuous one, with continued, deadly police violence, acts of civil disobedience and online activism that keeps the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the Twitter feeds and hearts of millions. But did the protests in Ferguson do anything to change the plight of black people in America?
A new article from the Huffington Post, titled “The Ferguson Protests Worked,” says they did and explores how they have impacted the nation for the better.
The article cites many changes that can be traced directly to the activists on the ground in Ferguson, including the reform of Missouri’s municipal courts, which were being used to wring money out of people of color for minor infractions under threat of imprisonment; increased media attention to police violence; the creation of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing; $20 million of federally approved funds for police body cameras; and more.
The writers, Julia Craven, Ryan J. Reilly and Mariah Stewart, also discuss how many of the other people who have died either at the hands of the police or while in their custody have helped shape America’s conversations around race.
Ferguson exposed how large the divide between the police and the community could be. John Crawford’s death in the Ohio Walmart was a reminder that black people are instantly viewed by police as a threat. The police killing of motorist Walter Scott during an April traffic stop in North Charleston, South Carolina, stoked cries from the black community that cops won’t admit when they’ve done something wrong. Freddie Gray’s severed spine and resulting death in April after a ride in a Baltimore police van reopened Jim Crow’s wounds. Last month’s arrest of Sandra Bland, who Texas authorities said hanged herself in a jail cell three days after she was stopped for a traffic offense, showed how police officers could react to individuals who assert their rights.