As prosecutors announced that a grand jury would not be indicting Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot an unarmed black teenager earlier this year in Ferguson, Missouri, the mayor of nearby St. Louis, Francis Slay, warned the community that violence and vandalism in reaction to the news would not be tolerated.
“The world would be watching us,” he said.
Despite the warning, angry protesters took to the streets, burning police vehicles and damaging storefronts. Images of cars engulfed by flames and of protesters hit by tear gas fired by police quickly spread, inciting uproar domestically, and, as Slay feared, around the globe.
Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said he was “deeply concerned at the disproportionate number of young African-Americans who die in encounters with police officers,” as well as the disproportionate number African-Americans in the US criminal justice system.
The violence headlined many British news websites, with The Daily Mail tabloid at one point devoting its entire home page to the case, and The Independent leading, for a time, with “Blow by blow: a graphical account of how a white police officer shot a black teenager in Ferguson—and sparked race riots that shook America.”
Canada devoted heavy coverage to the events, with this morning’s front pages splashed with dramatic images from the riots. In an op-ed for The Globe and Mail, David Shribman wrote: “The violence might only be ameliorated by the country-wide comity and rhetoric of brotherhood that tends to envelop the United States over Thanksgiving, which is Thursday.”
In France, where racial tensions surface frequently, Le Monde wrote about “the fractures of Ferguson.” The country’s justice minister, Christiane Taubira, took to Twitter to express her anger. “Racial profiling, social exclusion, territorial segregation, cultural relegation… the weapons, the fear… A deadly cocktail!” she tweeted in French.
Traditionally, Russia and China, frequently chastised by the international community for human rights abuses, gloated, subtly or less so, over the turmoil in Ferguson.
The Wall Street Journal reports that during a press briefing Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Hua Chunying, made a remark about the events, an unusual move for Chinese officials, who usually avoid commenting on the domestic affairs of other countries. “I would like to say that there’s no such thing as perfection when it comes to human rights regardless of whatever country you’re in,” she said. “We have to improve the record of human rights and promote the cause of human rights. We can learn from each other in this area.”
Russian officials were more direct in their criticism.
“Racial discrimination, racial and ethnic tensions are major challenges to the American democracy, to stability and integrity of the American society,” the Foreign Ministry’s human rights envoy, Konstantin Dolgov, said on Russian state television. He called the US hypocritical, “playing an aggressive mentor lecturing other countries about how to meet human rights standards.”