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Injustice in Ferguson, Long Before Michael Brown

The fury over Michael Brown’s killing was fueled by more than a century of economic and political fragmentation

Early this year, before the summer weather in Ferguson, Mo., turned to a fog of tear gas and a hail of rubber bullets, before the downscale suburb began to share national airtime with Sierra Leone and Iraq, a legal aid firm called ArchCity Defenders prepared a white paper that accused several municipalities in St. Louis County of stopping black drivers disproportionately for traffic violations, fining them in court sessions that were closed to the public, and jailing them when they were unable to pay. Singled out as “chronic offenders” were three neighboring towns in the northern part of the county: Florissant, Bel-Ridge, and Ferguson.

The untitled paper was still sitting in Executive Director Thomas Harvey’s computer on Aug. 9, awaiting finishing touches, when Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, was shot dead by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer.