Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for Bloomberg Businessweek

From the Streets of Ferguson—Portraits of Defiance

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    In the aftermath of the killing of 18-year old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson, the streets of Ferguson have borne witness to different kinds of hurt. Some of the people photographer Benjamin Rasmussen interviewed spoke of being physically assaulted and hurt by the police. Many still sting from the memory of tear gas. Even more bear more psychic wounds: sympathetic pain for a mother who has lost her son; the emotional injury of seeing an American street transformed into what looks like a foreign war zone; the seething over perceived years of racial and economic injustice. The protests may end but the hurt will linger.

    Meldon Moffitt – 42 from Ferguson, MO

    Last night was a peaceful protest, but somehow these officers feel like they have to control what are doing peacefully and they moved in on us.  They arrested me, put me to the ground and put these wire handcuffs on me. They took me to the command center up by the Target and let me sit in the van for at least two hours with some other guys that they arrested.  I got out by about 4 this morning. I haven’t been home, I haven’t had a wink of sleep and I am not going anywhere. I am going to be here until I hear that word, “Guilty”.

    Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    David, “Dave The Shredder” McNees. 27 from St. Louis. 

    This is personal for me because my little girl is half black. It really struck home when I heard about it.  Everything here is already hard for people and this has just made it that much more of a problem for people. It is just wrong. It is just wrong.

    Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    Dennis Tate, 60 St. Louis, MO

    Ferguson will never be the same. Because you have these cops out here acting and behaving as they are, people don’t want to come out anymore. A lot of people are going to move out of here. Ferguson is going to be a ghost town because of the police department.

    Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    Mia Wilson, 24 from St. Louis

    I am wearing my Mike B shirt. I have been out every night. It has been hard, because I got tear gassed. But I put that behind and come out and show love and support for Mike B. 

    Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    Derick (no last name given), 32 from Ferguson, MO

    The last week has been bad, sad, harsh and pretty depressing for the community. We are a family here and to bring in tanks and armies and guns is uncalled for. This isn’t Iraq, this is America. 

    Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    Marcus Quattlebaum, 22 from Atlanta, GA

    We came to support the cause and make sure that everybody has a T-shirt. When they are walking around here, other people can drive by and see their shirts and know what is going on in the streets these days. Visuals are the best way to learn something and I think that these say a lot. “Hands up! Don’t Shoot.” $10, all sizes.

    Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    Elvis Brandon. 48, from St. Louis

    The cops don’t have a right to do some of the things that they do. The cops have beat the f--- out of me for no reason. They have handcuffed me, slammed my face on the car and when I fell down they started kicking me.  I used to live right down the street. This community is devastated. Because it was a white cop killing a black man, they are dividing the races again. All because one cop made a mistake. 

    Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    Franklin Knight, 37 from Jennings, MO

    I am standing up and being accounted for like they had to do years before with Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Nelson Mandella. I am helping to pass out refreshments so that way people can stay motivated and not get dehydrated. 

    Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    Jewell Allen, 16 from Ferguson

    I just got out of jail…. I am not trying to get maced or tazed or anything, so this ain’t for me.

    Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    Stephen Boda, 52 from St. Louis

    I am from Bridge of Hope Community Church in North City, St. Louise. As members of the clergy, we have been a buffer zone between the police and the community. With the orange shirts, the community knows that if there is trouble stirring up then they can grab a hold of us. The cops know that there is somebody who is trying to defuse things. Sometime we will see things stirring up and we can step in and start to reason with them, and then the cops back off and give us some space. Sometime the cops are looking a little aggressive and so we say, “Hey, this is kind of stressing people out.” We are a buffer zone between the two.

    Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    Melissa Miller, 20 from Ferguson

    When you don’t know history, you always repeat it. This is the stuff that I have learned in history about what happened to our people, and to be living it again, did it ever go away? It is really sad to be living what I learned.

    Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    Jason Draggs, 18 from St. Louis

    Everybody is going crazy, this has just made everybody snap. They are saying that there has to be justice or no peace, so that is what they are standing on. I just hope that they find this man guilty, because if they don’t then there will be a war for St. Louis. It will go down in history and it will be messed up. 

    Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    Karen Hill, 56 from Ferguson

    I am from right around the corner from where Mike Brown got killed.  It would hurt me real bad to see one of my children gone. You can give me all of the money in the world, but that can’t bring my son back. 

    Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    Mr. Carter (no first name given), 23 from St. Louis, MO

    People who were gang related, people who were in different churches, different organizations, different groups, feel that justice needs to served and the system needs to be rebuilt. This is a stand for everybody. This isn’t just a stand for Michael Brown. This is a stand for everybody that needs justice.

    Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for Bloomberg Businessweek
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    Paris Caldwell, 33 from Ferguson

    Right now I am stepping up as a leader to bridge the gap between the clergy and older people and the younger ones. We have a huge age gap and the older people just don’t understand how the young people are now. You have to have someone who is in between. From what I have seen, a lot of kids are willing to listen to what I have to say even though I am female. They understand it and respect me for it. They see that I have been out here with them every single day. It is not like I am just talking it, I am showing them that I am here too. I have seen a lot of kids who want that change too, because everybody is tired of this. This can’t keep happening. 

    Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for Bloomberg Businessweek