Understanding the Ferguson Protests

Portland Police Sgt. Bret Barnum hugs 12-year-old Devonte Hart during a Ferguson demonstration in the city of Portland earlier this week. Devonte had been standing before a group of police officers, with tears streaming from his eyes, holding a sign that read "Free Hugs." Sgt. Barnum approached and asked Devote why he was crying. Devonte shared his concerns about the level of police brutality directed towards young black kids. Sgt. Barnum responded, "Yes, I know. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." He then asked Devonte if he could have one of his hugs. 

Building Background: Understanding the Ferguson Protests  Today we are going to take a break from studying and understanding events from ancient history, in order to try to process and understand events that are happening right now in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, and across our nation. Read the Newslea article about recent events here. Next, look at some of the images related to the protests in Ferguson and throughout the country. Finally, watch the news story below. 

Officer Darren Wilson and 18-year-old Mike Brown
The vast majority of protestors in Ferguson have been peaceful.
Mike Brown's mother learns that Officer Wilson will not face criminal charges for her son's killing.
After the grand jury decision, many protestors' frustration with police and the legal system turns to anger.
Anger boils over in Ferguson, as some take to the streets, setting fires and looting and destroying property.
A demonstrator sits in front of street fire during a demonstration following the grand jury decision.
Protests have been taking place across the nation.
Protestors gather in Eugene, Oregon, the night after the decision not to indict Officer Wilson.
Protestors march hand-in-hand in New York City.
A mother and her children lead a small protest in Minnesota.  

Padlet Activity: Express Yourself  You have a right to have your voice heard. What do you think about what is happening in Ferguson and across the country? How have you felt watching the news about these events? What are your opinions regarding some of the issues involved? Do you have any questions or concerns? Share your initial thoughts, feelings, questions, and/or concerns on your class's Padlet wall (4th period here and 6th period here). You may choose to leave your comment without a name attached, if it would make you feel more comfortable. Regardless of your viewpoint, however, make sure you maintain a level of respect and civility on this community forum.

One Man's Perspective: NFL Player Benjamin Watson Speaks Out  Many people have had a lot to say about the events in Ferguson but few have been able to capture the complexity of the issues and feelings involved as well as Benjamin Watson, an NFL football player for the New Orleans Saints. The night of the grand jury decision he penned an emotional response to the news, which he posted on Facebook. Let's spend some time reading and examining his words today. 
Benjamin Watson's Facebook post has been 'liked' a million times and shared by over 400,000 people.

Writing Activity: Add Your Voice  How exactly are you feeling about events related to the Ferguson story? Are you feeling angry, scared, confused, sad, sympathetic, hopeless, hopeful, or perhaps something else? Why are you feeling this way? Like Benjamin Watson, try to explore your own feelings and perspectives. In your Social Studies folders, you will find the document How I'm Feeling About Ferguson. After reviewing Benjamin Watson's words again, add your voice. Notice how Benjamin begins each paragraph or stanza with I'M ________, which is followed by an explanation of his feelings. You have been provided a scaffold to do the same. Express one of your feelings and explain why you feel that way. If you are feeling a range of feelings as Benjamin was, don't feel limited to expressing just one. Feel free to explore them all.   

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