Ferguson: What next?

US-based Red Pepper commissioning editor Siobhan McGuirk collates commentary following the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson and explores the necessity of an enduring movement to fight for racial equality.

September 12, 2014
4 min read


Siobhan McGuirkSiobhan McGuirk is a Red Pepper commissioning editor.


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no_justiceSocial movements and groups such as the Organisation for Black Struggle and Missourians Organising for Reform and Empowerment were both founded long before the uprisings in Ferguson to combat exploitation and oppression, champion political empowerment and campaign for justice. Now in association with the recently formed Hands Up United, they are collectively at the forefront of campaign organising efforts.

Hands Up United continue to promote a similar vision to that of OBS and MORE but with a more specific concern regarding discriminatory law enforcement, state violence and the criminalisation of the Black community. Amid organising protests and activist meet-ups across the US, Hands Up United also emphasise the need for different types of support, such as skills sharing, to enhance the abilities of action groups and ensure their durability and adaptability. Collectively these groups have published a specific list of local and national demands, warning that more uprisings would follow unless they are met.

OBS has also spearheaded a national campaign calling for ‘Justice For Mike Brown,’ a movement demanding federal action ‘to transform national policing and create new systems of police accountability’. Yet ‘justice’, notes Natasha Lennard, should mean more than the conviction of one police officer. Speakers at Brown’s funeral also called for a more ‘enduring movement.’ Elsewhere, Black community organisers predict that uprisings will now emerge imminently, and point to the suburbs, as likely origins of new racial justice movements. Charles Laurence agrees, citing rampant gentrification as fuel for future riots.

Rather than predict future outcomes, The Nation has focused on youth organisers and activists taking action across the US in response not only to Ferguson, but to the widespread murder of Black people in their communities, and beyond. The editors of the magazine’s special issue on ‘Racial Justice’ focus on the task at hand. They note: ‘young black organizers are laying the groundwork for a new grassroots movement for racial equality, focused on the critical issues facing African -Americans today: not just police brutality but mass incarceration, unemployment, voting rights, educational disparities and more.’

As a result of reporting on Brown’s death and the subsequent protests in Ferguson, investigative attention has turned to local and national policing. President Barack Obama has ordered a review of programs that allow military equipment to flow into local law enforcement. Moreover, as Democracy Now! reported, a number of Missouri districts rely on revenue from misdemeanour offence fines to fund their police departments. Those stopped are, unsurprisingly, disproportionately Black, and poor. This practice is now under review also. These actions might be described as positive, yet the impact of regulation where revolution seems necessary is likely to be negligible. So while even TIME is considering the possibility of reparations for African-American communities, Elliot Sperber wisely asserts: ‘actual justice and actual peace… requires not just redistributing political-economic power; [it] requires neutralizing coercive political-economic social relations.’

The consequences of Ferguson are as yet unknown. Only so much is assured: No justice… no peace.

Read on for a detailed round-up of Ferguson coverage, from a US perspective.


Siobhan McGuirkSiobhan McGuirk is a Red Pepper commissioning editor.