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Memo to media covering protests in Ferguson, Missouri

ColorOfChange.org, the nation’s largest online civil rights organization, is urging both local and national media to be particularly mindful of their coverage of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri and across the country in the wake of the grand jury’s impending decision regarding Officer Darren Wilson.

Recognition of the dangers posed by a hostile media climate for Black people is crucial at this very important juncture in our nation’s history. In the wake of yet another young life lost to police violence, hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets to express their outrage and demand better of law enforcement, as well as our justice system. This is a constitutional right. Our media should aid in the protection of those rights, rather than contribute to a racist drumbeat against them.

It is also important to recognize how our media impacts the perceptions of its audience. Research shows there are dire consequences when stereotypical images of Black people rule the day; less attention from doctors, harsher sentences from judges, and abusive treatment by police, just to name a few. Rather than feeding into the hostile media climate that contributed to the deaths of Michael Brown, Renisha McBride, Eric Garner, and so many others, we should use this opportunity to forge a fair and humanizing media landscape for Black people.

We ask that any journalists reporting on the important events in Ferguson and across the country take the following into consideration:

Cultural bias in our media and society persistently excuses the name calling of people of color, resulting in very real, sometimes deadly consequences. We must be vigilant in rooting out the use of coded, racialized language in news coverage. To be clear, the protesters in Ferguson are exercising their constitutional rights. More importantly, they are human beings, not the “thugs,” “rioters,” “criminals,” or “animals” our media has routinely described them as. Yet, when a predominantly white mob erupted into a full scale riot during a pumpkin festival in New Hampshire last month, the media called them “rowdy, mischievous revelers.” The double standard would be laughable if weren’t so incredibly dangerous.

Name calling on the part of our news media spins a narrative of dehumanization and degradation that threatens the lives of communities of color, one not unlike that which led to the Michael Brown and Eric Garner tragedies in the first place. The demonization of Black folks and their allies contributes to a hostile, dangerous media landscape that actually threatens lives.

The state violence on display in Ferguson against protesters is inexcusable, and should concern us all. The over-militarized police there waved and pointed guns at protesters and drove through neighborhoods in tanks, unnecessarily heightening an already-tense situation. But too often, journalists and news organizations turn Black communities into enemy combatants in their own neighborhoods by focusing almost exclusively on alleged acts of violence perpetrated by a small minority of protesters, crafting a deceptive narrative that vilifies Black people and their allies, and threatens their lives.

Here’s the truth: for years, Department of Defense programs have supplied local law enforcement in places like Ferguson with the same weaponry used by US Armed Forces in war zones. Rather than devoting their energies to building a healthy relationship with the communities they serve, precincts across the country are loading up on armored tanks and tear gas. It’s an incredibly dangerous, unhealthy state of affairs that deserves a prominent place in any substantive conversation about the unrest in Ferguson.

Black people are not to blame for police brutality, nor do they deserve it. Yet, media outlets, and talking heads like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, point to so-called “black-on-black crime” as an excuse for the consequence-less murder of Black people by law enforcement. As Michael Eric Dyson eloquently explained to Mayor Giuliani on Meet the Press last Sunday, the issue at hand is that America has a serious problem with letting white people get away with the murder of Black people, especially agents of the state like Officer Darren Wilson. To somehow point the finger at Black people and blame them for their own oppression and injustice is not a valid critique. Rather, as Dyson asserted, it only exemplifies “the defensive mechanism of white supremacy.”

The VAST majority of Ferguson protesters are peaceful. Yet somehow, the stories coming out of many major media outlets paints a picture of total lawlessness, undermining the real work being done on the ground to bring attention to the very legitimate concerns of hundreds of thousands of people. The implication is that these efforts are largely violent, senseless, and deserve to be dealt with harshly. This could not be further from the truth. These stereotypical portrayals of Black people shape perceptions that, when acted upon, can mean real life harm for Black people.

Ferguson protesters have taken to the streets to assert that Black lives matter; that Black folks cannot be killed with impunity. The suggestion that these motivations lack legitimacy are unacceptable and contribute to a hostile media climate for Black people.

The opinions of protesters, activists, and Michael Brown’s parents matter, too. The situation in Ferguson has ignited an intense, national conversation around a host of very important topics. It is imperative that our news media present fair, even-handed coverage. The marginalization or complete shutting out of the voices and opinions of those sympathetic to the concerns of protestors or victims of police violence is all too common, and totally unacceptable.

Structural racism tells the FULL story. Yet, oftentimes our media conversation begins and ends with individual acts of racism, outright dismissals of racism, or the notion that racism now exists in our cultural rearview, and is no longer relevant to today’s world. According to a recent report from Race Forward, the majority of today’s news media is not systemically aware, ignoring or omitting engagement with the policies and practices that lead to the racial disparities at the heart of situations like the one in Ferguson. It is critical that we inject the realities of structural racism into the national conversation, and hold media outlets that refuse to do so accountable.

Editor’s note: With more than 850,000 members, ColorOfChange.org is the nation’s largest online civil rights organization.

Missouri judge overturns state ban on same-sex marriage

A state judge overturned Missouri’s constitutional ban on gay marriage on Nov. 5 in a ruling that immediately set off a rush among some same-sex couples to apply for marriage licenses.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison said in a written ruling that Missouri’s measure recognizing marriage only between a man and woman violates the due process and equal protection rights of the U.S. Constitution. The decision mirrored ones handed down recently in several other states.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster immediately appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court, saying the constitutional challenge “must be presented to and resolved” at that level. But he said that his office wouldn’t seek a stay of the order, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant stays after same-sex marriage decisions in Idaho and Alaska.

Koster previously chose not to appeal a ruling requiring Missouri to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

After hearing about the ruling, Kelley Harris, 35, and Kelly Barnard, 36, drove to St. Louis City Hall to apply for a marriage license. They called a photographer to record the event and planned to invite friends to attend an impromptu ceremony at a local park. The couple had held an unofficial wedding ceremony in 2003.

“We’ve already been living as a married couple – we have children, we have family – so it would be nice to have the legal backing,” said Harris, accompanied by her mother and the couple’s suit-clad 4-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter.

By 5 p.m., the city had issued marriage licenses to four lesbian couples, including Harris and Barnard. April Breeden and Crystal Peairs, both 38, held a brief ceremony on the marble steps of the City Hall rotunda after obtaining their license.

“Time is of the essence,” Peairs said. “We wanted to make sure we got it taken care of today.”

The city issued four marriage licenses to same-sex couples in June and then quit doing so, intentionally setting up a legal challenge to the state’s 2004 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Assistant Attorney General Jeremiah Morgan argued during a September court hearing that 71 percent of Missourians had voted for the referendum and said that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly allowed states to define marriage.

St. Louis City Counselor Winston Calvert countered in court that the existing law treats same-sex couples as “second-class citizens.” He said an increasing number of states are allowing gay couples to wed, including most of the states surrounding Missouri.

“Obviously this is a long time coming for so many gay and lesbian couples in the state of Missouri and the city of St. Louis in particular,” Calvert said Wednesday as he and Mayor Francis Slay joined the four couples at the marriage license office.

Terry Garrett-Yampolsky, an archivist in the St. Louis recorder of deeds office, was part of the initial group of same-sex couples to receive licenses a little more than three months ago. He watched the couples enter the city office Wednesday with a mixture of pride and exhilaration.

“I’m overwhelmed,” he said. “It’s actually happening.”

The decision may lead to same-sex marriage licenses being issued in other Missouri communities. Cheryl Dawson, the recorder of deeds for Greene County in southwest Missouri, said she received one phone inquiry about same-sex marriage licenses after the ruling. She said she told the caller that a state association hadn’t yet told her how to handle such requests.

A federal court case in Kansas City also challenges Missouri’s gay marriage ban. Jackson County officials cited that case in a written statement late Wednesday noting that Burlison’s ruling “is limited to St. Louis city.”

The Missouri lawsuits mirror dozens of others across the country. The suits are based on the same arguments that led the U.S. Supreme Court last year to overturn part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denied a range of tax, health and veterans benefits to legally married gay couples.

Gay marriage is legal in 32 states — including Wisconsin — and the District of Columbia.

Amnesty report documents human rights concerns in Ferguson

Amnesty International has released On the Streets of America: Human Rights Abuses in Ferguson, which documents the human rights concerns witnessed first-hand by observers while in Ferguson Aug. 14-22. The report also outlines a series of recommendations that need to be implemented with regard to the use of force by law enforcement officers and the policing of protests.

Amnesty released the report in advance of its Midwest conference, which is taking place in St. Louis this weekend.

In August, after the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Amnesty dispatched a human rights delegation to monitor protests and the police response.

“What Amnesty International witnessed in Missouri on the ground this summer underscored that human rights abuses do not just happen across borders and oceans,” said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “No matter where you live in the world, everyone is entitled to the same basic rights as a human being — and one of those rights is the freedom to peacefully protest. Standing on W. Florissant Avenue with my colleagues, I saw a police force, armed to the teeth, with military-grade weapons. I saw a crowd that included the elderly and young children fighting the effects of tear gas. There must be accountability and systemic change that follows this excessive force.”

What happened between Michael Brown and Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson remains uncertain, due to conflicting reports. Brown was unarmed and as such it calls into question whether the use of lethal force was justified. Amnesty’s report urges the Missouri Legislature to amend the statute that authorizes the use of lethal force to ensure that the use of lethal force by law enforcement would be limited to those instances in which it is necessary to protect life.

The report also details the impact of city, county and state law enforcement and officials’ responses on the rights of individuals in Ferguson to participate in peaceful protest.

Amnesty International documented a number of restrictions placed on protestors, including the imposition of curfews, designated protest areas and a “five-second” keep walking rule. Intimidation of protesters is also included in the report, which details the use of heavy-duty riot gear and military-grade weapons as well as questionable protest dispersal practices, including the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and long range acoustic devices.

“This is about accountability,” Hawkins said in a news release. “The events in Ferguson sparked a much-needed and long-overdue conversation on race and policing in America. That conversation cannot stop. In order to restore justice to Ferguson, and every community afflicted by police brutality, we must both document the injustices committed and fight to prevent them from happening again. There is a path forward, but it requires substantive actions on the local, state and federal levels.”

The mistreatment of journalists and observers is another area of focus highlighted in the report. At least 19 journalists and members of the media were arrested by law enforcement while others were subjected to tear gas and the use of rubber bullets.

In the report, Amnesty renewed its recommendation that the Department of Justice conduct an independent and impartial investigation into the death of Michael Brown, implement a DOJ-led review of police tactics and practices nationwide and release nationwide data on police shootings.

The report calls for Congress to pass the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act.

Proposed wind farm near Missouri wildlife refuge will move

A company that had planned to build the largest wind farm in Missouri near several wildlife areas has decided to look elsewhere because modifications needed to protect the area’s animals made it financially unworkable.

Element Power, based in Oregon, had proposed erecting 84 to 188 wind turbines near Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Holt County and seven nearby conservation areas. The company, which had been studying the project for five years, had leased 30,000 acres of private land near the wildlife areas since 2010.

Squaw Creek, about 100 miles north of Kansas City, has more than 7,400 acres of wetlands, fields and grassland that attract several birds, including pelicans, wood ducks, trumpeter swans, blue-winged teals, sandhill cranes, blue herons, snow geese and smaller shorebirds.

The proposed location of the wind farm was criticized by the Missouri Department of Conservation, environmentalists and birding groups, who said it would endanger the millions of birds and bats that migrate through the area.

Element Power officials recently notified Holt County commissioners that the company was moving the project because measures that would be required to protect wildlife made it financially troublesome, The St. Joseph News-Press reported. The company said it was considering other areas of Missouri for the project but did not specify where.

Landowners involved in the project also received a written 30-day notice of a lease termination.

“The reality of the situation is that there are other areas in Missouri that make more economical sense to build in and as such, we are working to move the project to a more suitable location,” the letter states.

Michael Hutchins, a spokesman for the American Bird Conservancy, said the organization is cautiously optimistic.

“This would be extremely good news from the perspective of bird and bat conservation if they are going to move this wind farm to an area where the turbines will be less of a concern,” Hutchins said.

Can America change its ‘ritual’ of black deaths?

The choir sang, the preachers shouted and the casket stayed closed. The body was taken to the cemetery, and Michael Brown was laid to rest.

Thus went the most recent enactment of “the ritual” — the script of death, outrage, spin and mourning that America follows when an unarmed black male is killed by police.

With a few variations, the ritual has followed its familiar course in the two weeks since the 18-year-old Brown was shot by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, a St. Louis suburb. It continues as the country awaits the judgment of a grand jury considering whether Wilson should be charged with a crime.

Will the ritual ever change, and is it even possible that Ferguson could be part of that? This time, can recognition of the well-known patterns help heal the poisonous mistrust between police and many black people? Is the ritual already helping, in small gains buried beneath the predictable explosions of anger and media attention?

“This tragedy, because the world’s attention has been galvanized, this is one of those things that’s ripe for change,” said Martin Luther King III, the son of the famed civil rights leader, after the funeral on Aug. 25. 

The ritual began to take shape in the 1960s, when instances of police mistreatment of black people led to organized resistance in many places across America — and sometimes to violence. As the decades passed, a blueprint developed for how black advocates confronted cases of alleged police brutality: protest marches, news conferences, demands for federal intervention, public pressure on sympathetic elected officials.

Sometimes this led to charges or even convictions of police officers. Sometimes there were riots: Miami in 1980 after police were acquitted in the death of a black motorist; Los Angeles’ Rodney King rebellion in 1992; Cincinnati in 2001 when a 19-year-old was fatally shot by an officer; Oakland’s uprising in 2009 after Oscar Grant was shot in the back while face-down on a train platform.

The 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watchman in Florida added the transformative element of social media. The public was now participating much more intimately in the ritual.

And still, the unarmed black males kept dying. The chants of “No justice, no peace” kept rising.

So what happened after Brown was shot on Aug. 9 was predictable:

First, protests and outrage. A narrative forms in favor of the deceased: According to accounts of several witnesses from Brown’s neighborhood, he was shot with his hands up. He was a “gentle giant” headed to college. Pictures of Brown circulate that show him smiling, baby-faced — reminiscent of the childlike photos that first introduced us to Trayvon Martin.

The day after Brown’s shooting, protesters are met with a militarized police response. Violence and looting erupt and persist for days. Police respond with tear gas and rubber bullets, “scenes that have brought back visions of the 1960s, when civil rights activists were met with force in the streets,” says the president of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, La June Montgomery Tabron.

Michael Brown’s death goes viral. Ferguson trends on Twitter. A horde of media descends. The civil rights activists Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson arrive.

A backlash builds against the protesters. There are complaints that the liberal media skew the facts to create a false narrative about racist white police. As with Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant, a narrative forms against the deceased: Based on a video released by police, Brown is characterized as a weed-smoking thug who robbed a store minutes before his death.

Social media spreads facts, rumors and lies at Internet speed. There is a chain email with a fabricated arrest record saying, falsely, that Brown was charged with several felonies. A photo circulates of someone who is not Brown pointing a gun — like the menacing photo of a gangsta rapper that some said was Martin.

“Every time a black person does something, they automatically become a thug worthy of their own death,” the actor Jesse Williams says in a TV appearance.

The media reports new versions of the old stories: White flight has created poor black neighborhoods policed by white cops. Black people don’t trust the police. Black males are stereotyped as violent.

Then, the funerals

The main sermon at Brown’s service was delivered by Sharpton, who is as much a part of the ritual as police tape. His solution is twofold: Change the nation’s policing policies and repair the black community from within.

“Nobody is going to help us,” Sharpton said, “if we don’t help ourselves.”

There are a few glimmers of institutional change.

Those concerned that Brown’s death might not be fairly investigated took note of the high-profile appearance of Eric Holder, America’s first black attorney general, in Ferguson to meet with locals and discuss the federal probe he ordered. At least three police officers in the Ferguson area have been suspended for behavior that came to light due to newly heightened scrutiny of police. The White House is reviewing policies that have supplied police departments with military hardware, an issue that received much scrutiny in Ferguson.

In Michael Brown’s case, can the ritual be remembered for more than riots?

“Most definitely,” said Ferguson resident Jeremy Rone as he completed a protest march.

He said Brown’s death should increase voter registration, which would “put the right people in the right places” to change the way police deal with the black community. 

Soon after the unrest started, a voter registration booth went up on the corner of the hardest-hit street.

Rams cut gay defensive lineman Michael Sam

Out football player Michael Sam was one of 21 players who were cut by the St. Louis Rams today, but coach Jeff Fisher said the decision had nothing to do with Sam’s sexual orientation.

“I will tell you this: I was pulling for Mike,” Fisher told reporters. “I really was, and I don’t say that very often. Mike came in here and did everything we asked him to do.”

A defensive lineman at the University of Missouri, Sam came out publicly following his final season at the school, where he earned the title of SEC co-defensive player of the year. He’d been projected to be a mid-round draft pick, but the Rams took him with the 249th overall pick out of 256. His teammates already knew he was gay.

Sam’s sexual orientation had proved no distraction for that team, which tied its record with 12 wins and won the SEC Eastern Division during a season in which Sam had 11 1-2 sacks.

Publicly at least, the Rams seemed to welcome Sam and enjoy his presence.

The larger public, however, had mixed reactions to Sam, especially after he kissed his boyfriend on television when the Rams announced that he was being drafted.

ESPN recently stirred the pot with a story asking his teammates how they felt sharing a locker room and showering with a gay man. The sports network later apologized for creating a sensation around something that apparently wasn’t an issue.

Shortly after he was drafted, Sam’s Rams jersey became the No. 2 seller among online among those of rookies, trailing only Cleveland’s Johnny Manziel. Sam was among just 10 draftees selected by the NFL to be featured on commemorative coins.

At the ESPY Awards, where he received the Arthur Ashe Courage award, Sam was embraced by Hall of Famer Jim Brown on his way to the stage and fought back tears throughout his speech.

He told the audience: “Great things can happen when you have the courage to be yourself.”

The Associated Press reported that, in the end, Sam just failed to cut it as a defensive end on a team stocked with pass rushers. He lost his sport to Ethan Westbrooks, who was undrafted but proved more productive and more versatile.

Fisher said he still believes that Sam has an NFL future, and it still could be with the Rams. If he’s not picked up by another team, he could land on the St. Louis practice squad.

“I can’t go there right now,” Fisher said. “Coaches don’t talk about practice squads because we have to see what happens. We’ll know better tomorrow afternoon.”

Wherever he lands, Fisher said, “there will be no challenge, no challenges whatsoever.”

New Jersey sheriff delays acquiring military vehicles

Sheriff Michael Saudino in Bergen County, New Jersey, will delay the acquisition of two mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles from the Department of Defense.

The disclosure follows the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, where civil rights protesters faced a police department outfitted for warfare.

Before the Ferguson unrest, the ACLU of New Jersey had asked Saudino to withdraw his department’s application for the military vehicles.

And on Aug. 29, the ACLU’s public policy director, Ari Rosmarin, said, “We applaud Sheriff Saudino for listening to Bergen County residents and putting the brakes on his plan to bring two battlefield vehicles to the streets of Bergen County.

“As the ACLU-NJ cautioned weeks ago, militarizing local law enforcement could come with troubling ramifications for Bergen County communities, and the people of Bergen County must have a chance to weigh in before such a decision is made in their name.”

The ACLU said that the county is not a war zone and the sheriff’s department does not need to militarize.

Michael Brown and the politics of racism

When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, progressives were overcome with optimism. Finally it seemed as if America was entering a post-racial era. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of an America where people are not judged by the color of their skin felt within reach. 

But progressives failed to factor in how deep and visceral the roots of racism are in America. Progressives don’t tune in to the right-wing echo chamber or attend tea party rallies. So we were naïvely unprepared for the “take back our country” rhetoric that came to dominate right-wing politics. And we were aghast at the escalating vehemence of the war against what remains of the nation’s social safety net — a war that’s supported by poor whites even though they comprise 42 percent of the people who utilize public-assistance programs.

We never imagined that so many poor whites would derive more pleasure from looking down on people of color than from being able to provide their children with health care or a college education. Nor did we imagine that so many poor white conservatives would give a free pass to the billionaires who brought the world’s economy to its knees, destroying their own futures. 

But by the time yet another unarmed black man was fatally shot in Ferguson, Missouri, earlier this month, we knew exactly what to expect. We were not surprised that Ferguson police rolled in with military assault vehicles and battleground weaponry to quell demonstrations and lootings. We expected that conservative whites would respond with outrage directed not at the slaying of 18-year-old Michael Brown but rather at the local black community’s anger over the shooting. We knew it was inevitable that the conservative spin machine would gin up to try justifying Brown’s death even before Ferguson’s wily police chief released a surveillance video of him allegedly robbing a convenience store.

Our black president has been a dream-come-true for Republicans who’ve vowed allegiance to Wall Street and displayed disdain for Main Street. Ever since Obama’s election, corporate-backed Republicans have craftily exploited racism to bridge the economic gap and unite poor whites with their wealthy cousins.

Michael Brown is one of four unarmed black men who have been killed by police in the past month. Police or vigilantes kill an unarmed black man in America every 28 hours, according to a study by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement that divided the number of such victims in the past year by the number of hours. 

We hope the increasing attention being paid to the killing of unarmed blacks in America will prompt more people of color and their progressive supporters to vote in November. But we fear the reverse will happen — that more racist whites will rush to the polls, propelled by their reinvigorated fear of blacks conjured by the turmoil in Ferguson.

After enduring six years of unprecedented right-wing extremism in the wake of Obama’s election, we are no longer naïve. Racism is clearly the most effective card that leaders on the political right have to play, and they will continue to use it without apology. They’ve replaced the “N”-word with more polite wterms such as “inner-city blacks” and “urban youth,” but the evil of racism is as strong among them today as it’s ever been.

Ferguson police stripped of authority as vigils for slain black teen Michael Brown take place from coast to coast

Local police in Ferguson, Missouri, were stripped yesterday of their authority after days of violent clashes during which police used surplus military weapons against crowds protesting the police slaying of an unarmed black teen.

The Missouri Highway Patrol seized control of the St. Louis suburb following a fourth night of angry confrontations Wednesday over the Aug. 9 killing. An unnamed police officer shot Michael Brown, an 18-year-old who was set to start college this week, 10 times in the head and chest.

Brown, who was black, was apparently slain after a verbal altercation with the white cop who shot him. Ferguson is 70-percent black, but nearly the entire police force is white.

On Wednesday night, officers in riot gear used tear-gas on the crowd and arrested peaceful black demonstrators in scenes that dredged up nightmare memories of the 1960s black civil rights era. Commandeering armored vehicles, police were equipped with short-barreled 5.56-mm assault rifles that can hit specific targets as far away as 500 meters, according to published reports.

Assessing the accelerating events of the past several days, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon yesterday ordered the highway patrol, led by Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is black, to take control of the situation. Nixon’s decision was announced shortly after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke with Brown’s family and President Barack Obama spoke out publicly about the incident for the first time.

The change in law-enforcement will ensure “that we allow peaceful and appropriate protests, that we use force only when necessary, that we step back a little bit and let some of the energy be felt in this region appropriately,” Nixon said, as quoted by The Associated Press.

Ferguson residents have complained about police officers’ response beginning with the immediate aftermath of Brown’s shooting, when they brought out dogs for crowd control. County polic led both the investigation of Brown’s shooting and attempts to keep the peace in the small city.

County Police Chief Jon Belmar said his officers showed “an incredible amount of restraint” after being showered with rocks and bottles and having their vehicles destroyed.

As with last year’s Trayvon Martin shooting, social media brought international attention to the tragedy. Ferguson spawned a proliferation of hashtags and was the dominant subject yesterday on Twitter, Facebook and other sites, according to the AP.

Journalists and protesters offered real-time pictures, videos and text reports — and the world responded with outrage.

Police have said Brown was shot after an officer encountered him and another man on the street. They say one of the men pushed the officer into his squad car, then physically assaulted him in the vehicle and struggled with the officer over the officer’s weapon. At least one shot was fired inside the car. The struggle then spilled onto the street, where Brown was shot multiple times.

But Dorian Johnson, who was with Brown when the shooting occurred, had a much different story. He told reporters that the officer ordered them out of the street, then grabbed his friend’s neck and tried to pull him into the car before brandishing his weapon and firing. He says Brown started to run and the officer pursued him, firing multiple times.

Attorney General Eric Holder has said federal investigators have interviewed eyewitnesses to the shooting. A person familiar with the matter, who spoke with AP on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said federal authorities have interviewed Johnson.

Rallying communities from coast to coast under the Twitter hashtag #NMOS14, activists organized vigils for Brown in over 100 U.S. communities this evening, including at such historic sites as the St. Louis’ Gateway Arch, Boston Common and New York’s Union Square. The vigils featured a minute of silence at 7:20 p.m. EDT.

“We are not protesting. We are not going to be chanting or anything of that nature,” Chantelle Batiste, an organizer of the vigil at New Orleans’ 225-year-old Lafayette Square, told the local NBC affiliate. “We want to make sure everyone comes like-minded and everyone stays peaceful.”

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Go For the Food: Dim sum in the Land of Barbecue

Yes, even in the Land of Barbecue, there are other artery-challenging options beyond the slab.

The weekend crowds at Bo Lings Chinese restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri, have long suggested that plenty of people in this barbecue fumes-driven metro often prefer their pork steamed amid shrimp in a dumpling, diced in rice noodles or laced with barbecue sauce and stuffed into a fluffy, white steamed bun.

Bo Lings, which opened in 1981 and began dim sum service in 1987, for years drew out-the-front door weekend lines for dim sum at its location in the former Kansas City Board of Trade building a couple blocks from Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza. Owners Richard and Theresa Ng, who in 2008 were named Restaurateurs of the Year by the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association, moved about two years ago to their current larger spot in the high-traffic, touristy Plaza, an outdoor shopping and entertainment district.

The new Bo Lings has more seating, ultra-modern decor and a revamped menu that in addition to traditional Chinese fare, also includes sushi, a bakery and an elaborate happy hour.

But it’s the dim sum that draws in the crowds.

Dim sum diners at Bo Lings range from families who gather in large, multi-generational groups and linger for a few hours over pots of jasmine tea while they collect stacks of small dim sum plates and chase their small children around the room to couples in tiny booths who move in and out in a matter of minutes once their preferred carts make it to their vicinity.

Despite the crowds, the Bo Lings dim sum carts usually manage to wend their way through the tables and booths in steady streams, plying patrons with steamy selections including siu mai (shrimp and pork dumplings), roast duck, fried rice noodles, garlic cucumbers, rice porridge, pan-fried shrimp and chive dumplings and tofu with shrimp. Every now and then, a favorite item _ like the barbecue pork buns, of course _ may run low, but it can help to ask a server to grab some from the kitchen. They’ll often oblige.

It can be wise to arrive at 11 a.m. when the cart service begins to avoid the later rush, and Sundays are often more crowded than Saturdays.

Bo Lings, which does a brisk take-out service, too, has a few other locations around Kansas City, but only offers weekend push cart dim sum on the Plaza and at its suburban Kansas City location in Overland Park, Kansas. Bo Lings at the City Market near downtown has limited dim sum offerings on its daily menu.

And, if the craving resurfaces, each Bo Lings is likely only a short hike from at least one barbecue spot.

If You Go…

BO LINGS: http://www.bolings.com . Dim sum push cart service, Saturday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.  On the Plaza location, 4701 Jefferson St., Kansas City, Missouri, 816-753-1718. In Overland Park, Kansas, at 9055 Metcalf , 913-341-1718.