- Amidst the constant stream of surreal and heart-wrenching photos coming out of Ferguson, Mo., this week, a simple hand gesture has emerged as one of the most powerful symbols of the entire conflict: "Hands up, don't shoot."
- Traditionally seen as an act of surrendering to the authorities, thousands of protesters have subverted the gesture of putting two hands in the air to challenge police in the wake of 18-year-old Michael Brown's shooting.Eye witnesses say that Brown — who was shot to death by a police officer in the small, predominantly black St. Louis suburb on Saturday — had been holding both of his hands in a similar manner when he was killed.When riots sparked by the shooting broke out earlier this week, many peaceful protesters adopted the gesture as a non-violent counterpoint to the looting and vandalism that have been occurring since Sunday.
"If you're angry, throw your arms up," said the Rev. Al Sharpton during a news conference in St. Louis on Tuesday, urging the crowd to avoid resorting to violence.
"If you want justice, throw your arms up. Because that's the sign Michael was using," he continued. "He had a surrender sign. That's the sign you have to deal with. Use the sign he last showed. We want answers why that last sign was not respected."
- Heavily armed police in military equipment have nightly confronted protesters, using tear gas and smoke bombs to repel them. While there have been reports of some demonstrators throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at officers, many continue to protest peacefully while chanting "Hands up, don't shoot."
"This is a very peaceful way of representing the people who aren't able to do this themselves," said 22-year-old Colbi Drake, a protester and student at the University of Missouri to the LA Times.
"That was always the symbol of surrendering. 'I have nothing! My hands are up!' Why would you still shoot? It makes no sense," he said.
- As images of protesters holding their hands up in defiance continue to spread, many around the web are adopting the symbol as a show of solidarity.On Wednesday evening, hundreds of students from the historically black Howard University in Washington, D.C., gathered together to take a powerful photo in which every student has his or her hands raised.The student who took the photo, Megan Sims, explained on her Twitter feed that the group had been meeting about freshman move-in at the time, but they they also felt it necessary to respond to the Michael Brown case.
- Sims's original photo, published Wednesday evening, has since been retweeted nearly 9,000 times with more than 5,400 favourites.Copies of the photo are currently spreading all over the web, inspiring others to take similar photos with their friends and classmates.
- Others are turning to Twitter and Instagram on their own with images of their hands up, or while holding signs expressing their support for the protesters and desire to see justice served in Michael Brown's honour.