The hunger for the latest news on the shooting death of Michael Brown and its aftermath has pushed viewers worldwide to Vine, where journalists and citizens alike have posted a continuous stream of updates chronicling the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.
Users are bypassing cable TV and major media websites, not to speak of more traditional channels, to post what they’re seeing directly online. In death, Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American man who was shot dead by a white police officer, has galvanized Ferguson's black majority, which considers the killing is only the latest example of brutality from an overwhelmingly white police department charged with protecting a mostly black suburb of St. Louis.
Antonio French, a black St. Louis alderman, has documented heavily armed, militarized police actions since Brown was killed Aug. 9. French himself was arrested and briefly detained on Wednesday night, but his Vine videos have been especially illuminating to social media users who may wonder from the pictures and videos if they are looking at America or the Middle East.
The 2012 killing in Sanford, Florida, of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old African-American, has been a frequent point of comparison to the Brown case. But while that death and the later acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman, aroused outrage but little violence, the aftermath of Brown’s killing has played out in more than a week of street battles.
“This case, in my experience, has been unlike any other because everything is going viral,” Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Trymaine Lee told NPR’s "On The Media." “We haven’t seen this level, I’ll call it rebellion, in a long time. Young people have been waiting for a moment like this where they can express themselves, whether they do it peacefully or violently. …. It’s all playing out before our eyes on Twitter and social media. Everyone seems to be participating and watching.”
One police officer can be overheard in the following clip warning Ryan J. Reilly, a Huffington Post reporter in Ferguson, “You’re getting maced the next time you pass us.”