A New Normal: Ferguson Three Months Later
On Nov. 9, three months will have passed since 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot six times by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
The St. Louis suburb that was virtually unknown to the majority of the nation a quarter of a year ago is now almost universally recognized. But for residents of Ferguson, Mo., things have changed irrevocably.
“A lot of people in Ferguson really want this to be over. They want to go into healing, they’re ready for all the attention to stop," said Emanuele Berry, a reporter for St. Louis public radio, in a conversation on KCUR's Central Standard.
"But a lot of the people are on the other side of that and say we can’t go back to normal. This is the new normal.”
Berry says the healing process is slow, and media attention and ongoing protests are still part of daily life.
Daily life in Ferguson, attempting to unite a community
Twenty-year-old Alexis Templeton has been on the front lines of protests since she arrived in Ferguson, five days after Brown was shot.
“I was in Phoenix, Arizona, when Michael Brown was shot and killed. When I got back, I immediately hit the ground, standing at the front of riot lines, being face to face with the police," she said. "That was me for the last 89 days. Tomorrow, it will be three months, the days start to blend together."
She is a member of Millennial Activists United, a group that was founded in the aftermath of Brown’s death to unify younger Ferguson residents who are fighting to make their voices heard. She says her fellow protesters have become her new family. Trying to create change in her community has become her everyday life.
“I’ve been a Ferguson resident for 13 years," Templeton said. "Before this happened, I never attended a city council meeting, I never went to a town-hall meeting, I didn’t know there was a newsletter."
"Now, I attend the city council meetings and people actually want to talk to me. Before, no one would want to talk to us (the younger community.) Now, they wait for me to address the crowd."
“I wouldn’t say the racial divide is starting to come together," she added, "but people are starting to acknowledge that there is one so we can start to bridge that gap.”
The effect of media presence in Ferguson
National media attention may have been part of starting the conversation in Ferguson, but what was once a welcome presence has become a source of increased suspicion.
“A lot of people feel that their town has been misrepresented by the media,” Berry, the St. Louis reporter, said. “The way people in Ferguson interact with the media and the way that protesters interact with media has definitely changed over the last three months.”
Berry said that in general, people have become more resistant to engage with the media. They no longer rely on the media as the only way to tell their story. Instead, people have turned to social media as a platform to spread the word, she said.
Although it can be a positive tool, Berry says it has led to the circulation of misinformation and rumors. She says a new role for the media should be to find the truth among all the information circulating on social media.
Repairing the broken relationship between Ferguson residents and local government
Alexis Templeton says she has seen little action from local government in Ferguson.
“We haven’t seen anything from law enforcement," she said. "We haven’t seen anything from the city councilmen. They sit there at the meetings, but they don’t even respond. As a matter of fact, they started to have police come to these council meetings and sit right behind the protesters, almost like an intimidation tactic.”
Templeton said even an acknowledgment of the difficult time Ferguson residents have been going through would help repair the relationship between residents and local government and law enforcement.
If there is anything Templeton would like the rest of the nation to know, it’s that people in Ferguson are trying to make a better community and that the fight for justice for Michael Brown, although passionate, is a peaceful one.
While tensions run high, residents and people across the nation are waiting for a grand jury decision on the fate of Officer Darren Wilson.
The outcome will be an indicator of how the relationship between Ferguson residents, local government and law enforcement will play out in the future. Berry says people are preparing for action either way, and whether that action will be peaceful or violent, is unsure.