About 50 people protest at City Hall against police brutality in response to Ferguson unrest

(David Marino/DD)
Demonstrators at Phoenix City Hall protested against police brutality, among other issues, in response to the decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown. (David Marino/DD)

About 50 people gathered outside Phoenix City Hall on Friday in a protest against police brutality, among other issues, in response to the decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown.

There were various signs related to the Brown case. One plastered a portrait of Brown with the words “Justice for Mike Brown” and “Black Lives Matter.” Another simply said, “just stop.”

One-by-one, several demonstrators on Washington Street near Third Avenue spoke about the changes they wanted to see. The importance of young people participating in the political system was one of the main topics discussed.

“You have so much of the media saying that your vote doesn’t really matter, when it really does,” said Eboni West, an active participant in the discussion.

West proposed the creation of third parties that could intimidate established politicians by threatening to “split their vote.”

Although the protest was largely a catch-all of ideas, a large segment was dedicated to discussions of police brutality, and general reforms in the police force. Although not always directly related to the Brown case, there was a general outrage in the air that officer Darren Wilson had not been indicted. Many demonstrators, influenced by the Brown case and other examples of perceived police brutality supported the idea of placing cameras on police officers to monitor their activities.

“I’m really sick of police pushing people around,” demonstrator Trevor Welch said. “We need to change it. We need to put cameras on every single police officer, detective, any type of law enforcement.”

Off to the side were a few on-duty police officers who declined to comment.

“The issue now is that you have police departments that are run as military-style police departments,” West added.

The demonstrators were aware that a change in the system, while possible, would be difficult.

“Going up against police unions, you might as well go up against God,” West said.

One person present, however, partly disagreed with what was being said.

Greg Burleson publicly argued with a demonstrator about a claim that Phoenix police officers had used tear gas at a demonstration a few years ago. He said that he was there with a militia and no tear gas had been used.

“What you did was just feed these people some misinformation,” he said to the man.

Interviewed later, Burleson said he agreed that police officers were getting too powerful but he didn’t sympathize with the Michael Brown supporters.

“As far as Michael Brown goes, he’s not the issue for me,” he said. “It’s the police handling of the situation. Michael Brown, in my opinion, got what he deserved.”

Although somewhat disjointed, many of the demonstrators seemed hopeful that they could gather and get something done. They shared contact information, discussed planned petitions and spoke of a later protest on Dec. 7 with related ideas.

“We don’t have to agree, sometimes things can be heated, but the point is that we have that conversation,” one demonstrator said. “We have to start somewhere, we have to start coming together”

Correction: Dec. 2, 2014: A previous version of this article said Darren Wilson was acquitted. It has been updated to show that he was not indicted.

Contact the reporter at djmarino@asu.edu