Palestinians have taken to Twitter to express their support for American protesters in Ferguson, Missouri — where demonstrators have been clashing with police over the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a policeman — with some advising local residents on how to cope with tear gas, based on their own experience with Israeli forces.
The images from Ferguson, where police in heavy riot gear met angry protesters with tear gas and smoke bombs, sparked a strong reaction among Palestinians online, Al Jazeera reported.
Many Palestinians said they identified with the tear-gassed protesters, as they felt they too had suffered injustices at the hands of IDF soldiers during protests in the West Bank.
“From Gaza to Ferguson, much respect and love,” one Gaza resident, Inas Safadi tweeted.
— Enas (@EnasAlsaffadi) August 14, 2014
Another user posted a picture comparing Palestinian and American rioters.
— Abbas Sarsour (@iFalasteen) August 14, 2014
Throughout the week, dozens of Twitter user posted advice, pictures and words of support for the demonstrators in Ferguson.
Solidarity with #Ferguson. Remember to not touch your face when teargassed or put water on it. Instead use milk or coke!
— مريم البرغوثي (@MariamBarghouti) August 14, 2014
Others went as far as accusing Israeli soldiers of demonstrating to police in Ferguson how to disperse a crowd.
— Rajai Abukhalil (@Rajaiabukhalil) August 14, 2014
On August 9, 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed after he and his friend, Dorian Johnson, were suspected of stealing cigars from a convenience store, according to police reports.
Police have said Brown was shot after an officer encountered him and another man on the street during a routine patrol. They say one of the men pushed the officer into his squad car, then physically assaulted him in the vehicle and struggled with the officer over the officer’s weapon. At least one shot was fired inside the car before the struggle spilled onto the street, where Brown was shot multiple times, according to police.
Johnson has told media a different story. He said an officer ordered him and Brown onto the sidewalk, then grabbed his friend’s neck and tried to pull him into the car before brandishing his weapon and firing. He said Brown started to run and the officer pursued him, firing multiple times.
Tensions in Ferguson, a town of 21,000 that is nearly 70 percent black and patrolled by a nearly all-white police force, boiled over after a candlelight vigil Sunday night, as looters smashed and burned businesses in the neighborhood, where police have repeatedly fired tear gas and smoke bombs.
By Thursday, there was a dramatic shift in the atmosphere in Ferguson after Gov. Jay Nixon assigned protest oversight to Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is black and grew up near Ferguson. He marched alongside protesters.
“We’re here to serve and protect,” Johnson said. “We’re not here to instill fear.”
The streets were filled with music, free food and even laughter. When darkness fell — the point at which previous protests have grown tense — no uniformed officers were in sight outside the burned-out QuikTrip convenience store, which had become a flashpoint for standoffs between police and protesters.
“All they did was look at us and shoot tear gas,” Pedro Smith, who has participated in the nightly protests, said Thursday. “This is totally different. Now we’re being treated with respect.”
The more tolerant response came as President Barack Obama spoke publicly for the first time about the shooting — and the subsequent violence. Obama said there was “no excuse” for violence either against the police or by officers against peaceful protesters.
Attorney General Eric Holder has said federal investigators have interviewed witnesses to the shooting.
On Friday, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson released several police reports and documents during a news conference where he also identified the officer who shot Brown as Darren Wilson.
Jackson said Wilson is a six-year veteran of the police department, but he refused to release any other details about the officer.
The family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, accused police of trying to draw attention away from Brown’s death. He said Brown’s parents were “incensed” by what he calls “the old game of smoke and mirrors.”
“It’s bad enough they assassinated him, and now they’re trying to assassinate his character,” Crump said.