Months of research and interviews went into my latest for Politico Magazine, which is on the sustainability of the Ferguson protest movement, the participants of which are struggling to survive:
Ferguson began as a movement led by the people who had lost. Protesters took to the streets not only to rail against racism and police brutality, but also to decry decades of deeper divides: in housing, education, jobs, and the court system. But as the months wore on, the media frenzy built up, and the money rolled in, Ferguson turned into something else. A struggling suburb without a prominent industry suddenly had one: Ferguson Inc., a national protest movement.
In St. Louis, money is in the air—or, at least, talk of money. In the months since Michael Brown’s death, following all of the street violence, tear gas, and press conferences, national money flooded into Ferguson. The problem is no one seems to know where the money is going. They only know who is not seeing it: folks on the ground. Ferguson Inc. may be big business, but its dividends for the average St. Louis protester are few. Three months after the grand jury let Wilson walk, many struggle to simply survive. […]
“Ferguson” has become a buzzword, shorthand for engaged activism or lucrative chaos, depending which way you lean. Twitter splashes #Ferguson across their office walls, Ferguson T-shirts are sold at rallies across the country, and in November, media pumped Ferguson for ratings like they were staging a hunger games. Documentaries of protesters abound, with the documented now complaining that outsiders are profiting off their exploitation. Dozens of online fundraisers drop the Ferguson name to push for everything from community service initiatives to independent journalism to restoring burned-down businesses to riot tourism. National black leaders like Al Sharpton have embraced Ferguson as a cause celebre, much to the dismay of some St. Louis activists, who fear a local movement instigated by youth is being hijacked by an older generation for profit.
Read the full article, Ferguson Inc, at Politico Magazine. And don’t miss the photo gallery by the talented Andrew Moore.