Five and a half years ago, Ferguson, Missouri, became the focus of national attention following the shooting of teenager Michael Brown. Until the Flood—onstage at the Douglas January 24 – February 23, 2020—is acclaimed playwright and performer Dael Orlandersmith’s latest solo show, an urgent exploration of the social uprising that succeeded the fatal shooting. This timeline recounts the tumultuous time period that serves as the backdrop of the groundbreaking work.
August 9, 2014
Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old, is shot dead by an unnamed white police officer on Canfield Drive in Ferguson. Witnesses offer varying testimonies of the altercation.
At a news conference, St. Louis County Police Chief Joe Belmar says Brown attacked the officer and tried to take his gun. Others, including Darian Johnson, who was on the scene, say no struggle took place. Belmar states that one shot was fired inside the vehicle and another outside the vehicle. Protests begin, peaceful at first. However, some demonstrators smash car windows and loot local stores. This is met with heavy response from local police dressed in riot gear.
Ferguson police announce they will release the name of the officer. The FBI announces it will join the investigation. Unrest continues, with police using tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters.
President Barack Obama addresses the shooting for the first time, calling Brown’s death “heartbreaking,” but urging Ferguson residents to remain calm. Ferguson police cancel plans to name the officer who killed Brown, citing death threats.
The fourth night of protests results in protesters throwing Molotov cocktails while heavily armed police deploy armored vehicles.
President Obama addresses the nation, calling for peace and an “open and transparent” investigation. Governor Jay Nixon announces the Missouri Highway Patrol, led by Captain Ron Johnson, will take over security in Ferguson to ease tensions between protesters and police.
Ferguson police name Darren Wilson, 28, as the officer who shot Brown. Police also release a surveillance video of Brown and Darian Johnson allegedly robbing a convenience store prior to the shooting. Johnson’s lawyer confirms his involvement. Brown’s family accuses the police of trying to assassinate Brown’s character.
Governor Nixon declares a state of emergency and establishes a curfew in Ferguson, making it illegal to be out after midnight.
The Justice Department authorizes a federal autopsy of Brown’s body and an independent investigation.
Continued protests lead Governor Nixon to deploy the National Guard. Seventy-eight people from as far away as California and New York are arrested. Amnesty International deploys human rights teams to Ferguson, the first time the organization has done so in the US. Police officers appear to use both Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) and tear gas to suppress protesters.
A grand jury begins investigating whether Wilson should be criminally charged. President Obama sends US Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson.
The Justice Department announces a civil investigation of the Ferguson police.
Wilson testifies before a grand jury.
Four days of peaceful demonstrations known as “Ferguson October” begin.
Governor Nixon announces a special commission to examine the social and economic conditions in Ferguson.
A leaked autopsy in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reveals Brown was shot at close range in the hand and six times total, appearing to support Wilson’s claim that there was a struggle in his car. A toxicology report also shows that Brown had marijuana in his system.
Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch says no indictment will be filed against Wilson. A wave of protests follow. President Obama calls on the nation to accept the decision and protest peacefully. Though most protests are peaceful, more than a dozen buildings are burned, as are dozens of vehicles and two police cars. Local police arrest more than 60 people.
Wilson, who has been on administrative leave since the shooting, resigns from the Ferguson Police Department.
Hundreds of protesters march through the streets of Berkeley and Oakland, California, to protest grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of two unarmed black men—Brown and Eric Garner of New York, who died in a police choke hold on July 17, 2014.
Thousands of demonstrators, led by Reverend Al Sharpton, call for judicial reform, special prosecutors at the federal level, and body cameras on police nationwide during a “Justice for All” march and rally in Washington, D.C.
March 3, 2015
The Justice Department review finds that the Ferguson Police Department engaged in a broad pattern of racially biased law enforcement that permeated the city’s justice system, including the use of unreasonable force against black suspects.
Ferguson elects two additional black city council members, transforming racial composition in local politics.
Brown’s parents file a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Ferguson, former Police Chief Thomas Jackson, and Wilson.
Ferguson appoints a black interim police chief, who says his first goal is “simply to build trust” within the community.