While Ferguson, Missouri erupted in anger and violent protests Monday night following the grand jury announcement that Officer Darren Wilson will not be indicted in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, the streets of Austin on Chicago’s West Side remained relatively quiet.
Police patrol cars traversed Austin’s neighborhoods late Monday following the televised announcement by St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch that Wilson, who is white, will not face criminal charges in the Aug. 9, fatal shooting of Brown, who was unarmed.
Riots erupted in Ferguson following the announcement. Non-violent protests also occurred in Chicago in some parts of the city, including on the South Side outside Chicago Police headquarters at 3510 S. Michigan.
The police department were closely monitoring the events in Missouri, said First Deputy Supt. Al Wysinger, who watched news reports from his office Monday at CPD headquarters. A West Side native and former 15th District commander, Wysinger said Chicago police was on alert in case something erupted here.
“We’re just following some of the newscast, and we actually have a pretty comprehensive plan on how to deal with it. Everyone is in standard uniform. There’s no riot gear or overwhelming police force. No military vehicles or anything like that,” Wysinger said.
According to Chicago Police News Affairs on Tuesday, Austin had no reported incidents stemming from Monday’s Ferguson announcement. Wysinger said the police would not interfere with peaceful protesting but would step in if rioting or violence occurred.
The streets of Ferguson, meanwhile, went up in ablaze as several businesses were set on fire; a local police caught was also set on fire. According to news reports, there were 61 arrests in Ferguson, most for trespassing and burglary, and some 18 people injured that evening.
In Chicago, protestors staged a sit-in Tuesday morning outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office at City Hall. Outside CPD headquarters Monday night, more than 200 people gathered, holding signs against police brutality and chanting for justice over a megaphone.
Reaction from activists and commuity leaders to the grand jury announcement ranged from disappointment to anger.
“Our prayers will forever go out to the Brown family and others who have lost their loved ones to gun violence, but this case, however, is so much bigger than one family,” said Rev. Ira Acree of Greater St. John Bible Church, and co-chair of clergy activist group the LEADER’s Network.
“Some people are asking why is there so much outrage and frustration about the Ferguson decision? It’s America on trial for having two judicial systems — one for white privilege and another for people of color and the marginalized.
“This is not an isolated case, but there is a historical pattern of how whites killing blacks go unpunished while blacks killing whites rot in jail and they throw away the key,” Acree said. “At a time where black males are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than whites, this can’t be ignored. Let me be very clear we are not just fighting for justice for Michael Brown, but for your son and mines, if you are black in America.”
Following Monday’s announcement, President Obama spoke to the nation about people’s frustration.
“We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation,” the president said. “The fact is, in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country. And this is tragic, because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates. The good news is we know there are things we can do to help. And I’ve instructed Attorney General [Eric] Holder to work with cities across the country to help build better relations between communities and law enforcement.”