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Tensions continue to run high in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, after the weekend police shooting of an unarmed African American 18-year-old, Michael Brown.
Police used tear gas and rubber bullets last night to disperse a crowd of about hundred people who gathered in front of a burned and looted store.
The NAACP hosted a forum last night to provide answers and try to ease tensions. John Gaskin III of the NAACP chaired the meeting.
“Last night’s forum was the first event after the shooting that was peaceful,” Gaskin told Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson. At 21 years old, Gaskin is a member of both the St. Louis County NAACP and member of the NAACP National Board of Directors.
The NAACP event left people with a charge, engaged, and perhaps most importantly, with some answers and a place to vent, Gaskin said. He credits these factors for the decrease in violence across the St. Louis suburb.
“It’s gonna be quite some time until residents in that community feel safe and feel like they can trust the officers.”
The area has been plagued with looting and rioting in the days following Brown’s death, as residents have taken out their anger about Brown’s killing.
“Although the NAACP may not be an organization that is standing on top of SUVs yelling, ‘No justice, no peace,’ rest assured we are working for justice,” Gaskin said.
He is working with residents to explain the judicial process and to engage people both inside and outside the Ferguson community who would like to get involved constructively.
“Race had a lot to do with it,” Gaskin said of the police shooting. “You’ve got a lot of police forces now, in today’s world, that are shooting first — multiple times — and asking questions later. … We are tired of continuing to hear about police brutality cases across the country.”
On July 17, Eric Garner, a New York City black man, died after an officer used an illegal chokehold while trying to arrest him for allegedly selling individual cigarettes.
And the one-year anniversary of the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin recently passed.
“The list goes on and on. There’s cases of folks being killed by police that have not received national news,” Gaskin added.
Race is a factor that “absolutely” must be considered in Brown’s death, Gaskin said.
“The folks have to feel like they can trust the police. Right now that’s at an all-time low,” Gaskin said. “I think it’s gonna be quite some time until residents in that community feel safe and feel like they can trust the officers.”