Six Protesters in the 2014 Ferguson Riots Are Dead

Associated Press, March 17, 2019

Six men with connections to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, have all met untimely deaths in the past four years drawing speculation in the activist community that ‘something sinister is at play’.

Two were found dead inside torched cars, three died of apparent suicides and another collapsed on a bus, his death ruled an overdose.

Police say there is no evidence the deaths have anything to do with the protests stemming from a white police officer’s fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, and that only two were homicides with no known link to the protests.

But some activists say their concerns about a possible connection arise out of a culture of fear that persists in Ferguson four-and-a-half years after Brown’s death, citing threats — mostly anonymous — that protest leaders continue to receive.

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No arrests have been made in the two homicides. St. Louis County police spokesman Shawn McGuire said witnesses have simply refused to come forward, leaving detectives with no answers for why the men were targeted.

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Deandre Joshua’s body was found inside a burned car blocks from the protest. The 20-year-old was shot in the head before the car was torched.

Darren Seals, shown on video comforting Brown’s mother that same night, met an almost identical fate two years later. The 29-year-old’s bullet-riddled body was found inside a burning car in September 2016.

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MarShawn McCarrel, 23, of Columbus, Ohio, shot himself in February 2016 outside the front door of the Ohio Statehouse, police said. He had been active in Ferguson.

Edward Crawford Jr., 27, fatally shot himself in May 2017 after telling acquaintances he had been distraught over personal issues, police said. A photo of Crawford firing a tear gas canister back at police during a Ferguson protest was part of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage.

In October, 24-year-old Danye Jones was found hanging from a tree in the yard of his north St. Louis County home. His mother, Melissa McKinnies, was active in Ferguson and posted on Facebook after her son’s death, ‘They lynched my baby.’ But the death was ruled a suicide.

Bassem Masri, a 31-year-old Palestinian American who frequently livestreamed video of Ferguson demonstrations, was found unresponsive on a bus in November and couldn’t be revived. Toxicology results released in February showed he died of an overdose of fentanyl.

The Ferguson protests added momentum to the national Black Lives Matter movement, but they also generated resentment from people angered by TV footage of protesters hurling rocks and insults at police. Amid lingering anger, activists and observers say that while they see no clear connection between the deaths and the protests, they can’t help but wonder about the thoroughness of the investigations.

‘These protesters and their deaths may not be a high priority for (police) since there is this antagonistic relationship,’ Washington University sociologist Odis Johnson said. ‘I think there is a need for them to have a greater sense of urgency.’

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‘Something is happening,’ said Cori Bush, a frequent leader of the Ferguson protests. ‘I’ve been vocal about the things that I’ve experienced and still experience – the harassment, the intimidation, the death threats, the death attempts.’

Bush said her car has been run off the road, her home has been vandalized, and in 2014 someone shot a bullet into her car, narrowly missing her daughter, who was 13 at the time.

She suspects white supremacists or police sympathizers. Living under constant threat is exhausting, she said, but she won’t give in.

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It’s unclear if residual stress from the protests or harassment contributed to the suicides, but Johnson said many activists feel a sense of hopelessness.

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Black St. Louis County residents {snip} tend to live in areas with higher crime rates. The 2010 U.S. census showed that while people who live in wealthy and mostly white western St. Louis County can expect to live well into their 80s, life expectancy in parts of mostly black north St. Louis County reaches only into the 60s. Life expectancy in Kinloch, a few miles from Ferguson, is 56.

Forty-five of the county’s 60 homicide victims last year were black in a county where less than a quarter of the population is black, according to police statistics.

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