Derek Laney, Untitled, 2014
Currently, in Ferguson, Missouri, a large group of citizens, mostly Black, have joined together to protest the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager, by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. For them, they are not protesting just this incident; they are protesting a system which supports police officers who kill unarmed minorities and are rewarded for it. The people are calling for greater accountability for police officers, asking in particular for mandatory body cameras on policemen, as has been done in other cities.
The police response was swift and brutal. Within days, apparently racist police officers (evidence for this racism can be seen in various candid videos, in which police officers are seen baiting protesters) had begun firing tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds, even peacefully protesting ones. When the police overreacted, the situation escalated rapidly. A SWAT team was brought in, journalists were arrested, a woman was shot in the head non-fatally, a curfew was introduced, and more. The police report about the original incident has also been changed repeatedly.
Meanwhile, in Keene, New Hampshire, an out-of-control party which coincided with the annual Pumpkin Festival spilled into the street. It quickly turned violent, with rioters smashing windows, breaking police shields, overturning cars, and looting local businesses. Although the police responded with chemical agents and riot gear, the police response was much less hostile and provocative than it was in Ferguson. Those responsible will mostly be turned over to their colleges rather than the justice system.
Viewing this clear disparity in treatment as racially driven, Derek Laney and other protesters wrote messages like “Racism,” “Police Brutality,” “Hatred,” and “Fear” onto a number of pumpkins, carried them across town, and tried to smash them on the ground in front of police in front of the St. Louis Justice Center in Clayton, Missouri. ”We are going to smash [pumpkins] symbolically at the foot of someone who can bring [the Brown] case to justice,” explained Laney. In doing so, they not only pointed out the clear discrepancy in treatment, but also symbolically smashed these tools of oppression.
Unsurprisingly, Laney and other protesters were arrested on the spot. Above are pictures of their protest juxtaposed with a photo of the Keene riot. Laney responded to his arrest, “I wonder if all the white teens in St. Louis County that smash pumpkins on Halloween will face arrest.”