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Police gathering in Ferguson after the grand jury decision
Police gathering in Ferguson after the grand jury decision@alexwroblewskiphoto via Instagram

Protests erupt across America as Darren Wilson walks free

Ferguson grand jury decides not to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown

Well, who didn't see this coming? The Ferguson grand jury in charge of deciding whether or not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot the unarmed 18-year old Michael Brown, has returned a verdict of no charge.

“After their exhaustive review, the grand jury deliberated over two days, making their final decision,” Robert McCulloch, St Louis county prosecutor, said in a press conference yesterday. “They determined that no probable cause exists to file any charge against officer Wilson.”

Tensions have simmered in Ferguson since the killing on August 9, with protests held across the city. After the grand jury gave its decision yesterday at around 8pm local time, protests have erupted across the US, with demonstrations spreading to cities like Seattle and LA. In New York alone, thousands of protesters have shut down traffic to Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Triborough bridges.  

Violence flared in Ferguson during the night once the decision was announced. Cars and buildings were burnt as rage spilled over indictment decision. Police in riot gear and military vehicles lined the streets attempting to take control of the city. 

Officers deployed tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets against protesters – which, as many people pointed out on social media, kind of undermined the whole "stay calm" order from authorities. According to the St Louis County Police Department, 29 people have been arrested so far.

One man livestreaming from Ferguson commented: "Democracy in America has been taken over by a police state".

In this image taken from news footage of Ferguson, non-lethal bullets are deployed at close range on protesters: 

Ferguson's assistant fire chief told KMOV that at least 25 fires were set through the night, including a gas station was set on fire and several cars on a nearby auto lot.

Non-indictments are extremely rare. In 2010, US attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases – but grand juries declined to return an indictment in just 11 of them. 

“If the prosecutor wants an indictment and doesn’t get one, something has gone horribly wrong,” a University of Illinois law professor Andrew D. Leipold, told FiveThirtyEight. “It just doesn’t happen.”

Despite no justice being served, Michael Brown's parents have appealed for calm.

In a statement released by their lawyers in the wake of the decision, they said: “We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions. While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.

“Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera. We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful. Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction. Let's not just make noise, let's make a difference.”

Though scenes of arson and looting dominated mainstream news coverage, footage from outside the Ferguson police station shows people huddled together in peaceful protest, paying heed to the Browns' request.

Unusually, transcripts of testimony that jurors heard have made available to the public. Points of interest include the fact that Wilson had never used his weapon before he fired twelve times on Michael Brown. He described the community where he shot Brown as "not well liked" and said that Brown "looked like a demon". Photos of his injuries appear to show, well, nothing.

At the time of writing, it's 4.30am in St Louis. The initial violence has calmed for now as fire officials continue to tackle the blazing fires. The anger underpinning the civil unrest shows no signs of abating. But as Gary Younge pointed out when rioting spread across the UK in 2011, Martin Luther King once said: "A riot is the language of the unheard". Right now, they're speaking it fluently in America.