Very few Americans are confident that Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson was justified in shooting black teen Mike Brown, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll.
But that hasn’t stopped supporters of the policeman from donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to Mr. Wilson and showing mass support for the officer in several conspicuous ways.
The NYT/CBS survey, released Thursday, reports that just 9 percent of Americans believe the actions of Wilson were justified, while 25 percent say they were unjustified. The vast majority – 64 percent – say they don’t have enough information to decide.
Some of those 9 percent, however, had donated more than $225,000 to the policeman and his family on the crowd-funding website GoFundMe.com as of midday Friday. The fund, which opened Monday, has attracted more than 5,600 donors, the majority giving between $10 and $20.
“This page has been created to support Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department,” reads a message on the page. “We stand behind Officer Darren Wilson during this trying time in their lives. All proceeds will be sent to Darren Wilson and his family for any financial needs they may have including legal fees.”
At least six new Facebook pages have also been started in support of the officer. Combined, they claim nearly 200,000 supporters.
Our Voice is heard and here we stand,
To stay the course behind this man,...
“I put myself into that family’s shoes,” the founder of the Facebook page, who didn't want to be named, told Yahoo News. "I would want to know that not everybody hated me for doing my job.”
Sympathizers with the officer across Missouri also have begun to leave on blue lights outside their homes in solidarity with Wilson – depleting at least one local Wal-Mart of its supply of blue lanterns.
The blue lights have also been reported as far away as Florida, Michigan, and California – even Kuwait.
Earlier this week, a few dozen demonstrators gathered outside KSDK-TV in downtown St. Louis to express their support for the officer and protest against the allegedly slanted coverage of the Brown shooting by the local television station.
According to reports from the scene, the demonstrators had little sympathy for the Brown family – or for those who allege that policing in Ferguson is marred by racial discrimination.
“If you do what the police tell you to – if you’re not doing anything wrong and the cops ask you to do something, then you’re not going to have anything to worry about,” Michael Bates told The Huffington Post.
“He was doing his job,” Kaycee Reinisch told the Guardian newspaper. “And now because of public uproar in Ferguson, he is being victimized.”
At the downtown St. Louis gathering, the pro-Wilson demonstrators sold out of T-shirts in support of the policeman at $7 each.
These demonstrators have drawn fire from several critics – especially because the parallel GoFundMe.com page to support Mr. Brown’s family has raised only $158,000.
The GoFundMe.com page for Wilson has been littered with racist comments. Though the website has been racing to take the comments down, Twitter users have been taking screen shots of them before site administrators remove them.
“Everything about this is pretty ... terrible,” opined Tom Ley of Deadspin.
Grand jury deliberations on the shooting of Brown – which could last weeks – began on Wednesday at the St. Louis County Justice Center in Clayton, Mo.
While witnesses of the Aug. 9 altercation say Wilson shot Brown while the suspect had his hands up in surrender, Ferguson police and friends of Wilson say Brown attempted to take the officer’s gun before charging the policeman.
According to autopsies conducted by the county and a medical examiner hired by Brown’s family, the teen was shot at least six times.
• This report includes material from The Associated Press.