Hands up, don't shoot

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Images:Protesters with signs in Ferguson.jpg
"Hands up!" sign at a protest in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014
Images:Shaw Day 2 Photo 4.jpg
Group of people in Shaw, St. Louis with their hands raised in October 2014

"Hands up, don't shoot", or simply "hands up", is a slogan and gesture originating from the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, an African-American in Ferguson, Missouri by a white police officer. The gesture was seen in demonstrations in Ferguson after the shooting incident, and in protests throughout the United States following the Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson involved based on evidence proving he acted in self-defense. The U.S. Department of Justice found no evidence this phrase or gesture was used by Brown during the incident.



Members of the St. Louis Rams football team

On November 30, 2014, several players on the St. Louis Rams (Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Kenny Britt, Jared Cook and Chris Givens)[1] entered the field during a National Football League (NFL) game making the gesture.

The St. Louis Police Officers Association said the act was "way out-of-bounds" and the organization "is profoundly disappointed with the members of the St. Louis Rams football team who chose to ignore the mountains of evidence released from the St. Louis County Grand Jury this week and engage in a display that police officers around the nation found tasteless, offensive, and inflammatory".[2][3]

Rams Coach Jeff Fisher and a team spokesman said that they were unaware of the players' plans before the game and the players "were exercising their right to free speech".[4] Against the St. Louis Police Officers Association's request, the NFL did not punish the players, because the gesture was political and unlike other major professional sports leagues NFL does not punish players for political gestures.[1] The NFL's vice president of communications said, "We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation."[1]

Jared Cook, one of the Rams players, received threats after making the gesture.[5]

Capitol Hill

Images:Cspan hands up don't shoot.jpg
Reps. Jeffries (D-NY), Lee (D-Tex.), Green (D-Tex.) and Clarke (D-NY) making the gesture
On December 1, 2014, several lawmakers in the United States House of Representatives made the gesture to protest the shooting and police brutality. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York) said on the floor:
Hands up, don't shoot. It's a rallying cry of people all across America who are fed up with police violence. In community, after community, after community, fed up with police violence in Ferguson, in Brooklyn, in Cleveland, in Oakland, in cities and counties and rural communities all across America.[6]
Other members of the Congressional Black Caucus joining Jeffries were Reps. Yvette Clarke (D-New York), Al Green (D-Texas) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), who praised the football players who made the gesture the night before.[6]

On December 11, more than 150 black congressional staffers staged a walkout and silent protest in a display of unity with demonstrations against the Eric Garner and Brown grand jury decisions. Senate Chaplain Dr. Barry Black led the crowd in prayer. They were gathered there, Black said, to be a "voice for the voiceless". After prayer, the crowd of staff and lawmakers posed while making the gesture.[7][8]

CNN Newsroom

On August 13, four days after the death of Michael Brown, an eyewitness, Tiffany Mitchell, went live on CNN and became the first to state that she believed Michael Brown's hands were up as he was shot. In the days after, her eyewitness account contributed to the phrase's existence. In the interview she said, "the kid's body jerked, as if he was hit from behind, and he turned around and put his hands up and the cop continued to fire".[9]

On December 13, after a story about the ongoing protest, three members of the CNN Newsroom panel held up their hands while a fourth held up a sheet of paper reading "I can't breathe", a reference to the death of Eric Garner. "Our hearts are with [the protesters]" was stated, but "hands up, don't shoot" was not said during the broadcast. The gesture attracted criticism because it appeared on a non-opinion-based program.[10]

2015 Grammys

During Pharrell Williams' performance of the song "Happy" at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, the singer and backup performers made the hands up gesture.[11]

"Hands up" as a metaphor and a movement

Witness accounts differ whether Michael Brown actually had his hands up or uttered the words "don't shoot" as the subsequent DOJ investigation concluded that the words and actions were never uttered. Among some who support the gesture as a means of expressing opposition to police violence, "hands up, don't shoot" has a symbolic meaning, independent of whether Brown's hands were raised. As one protester remarked, "Even if you don't find that it's true, it's a valid rallying cry... it's just a metaphor."[12][13][14]

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Elizabeth Brondolo, a psychology professor at St. John's University in New York, said "The truth always really matters, but it's important to recognize that past experience to stereotypes also influences the perception of hands being raised."[15]

Michelle Ye Hee Lee of The Washington Post '​s Fact Checker feature gave "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" four Pinocchios, saying it has no basis in fact.[16]

Department of Justice report

The individuals who reported that Brown had his hands up and/or was not advancing or running towards Wilson have been refuted. The U.S. DOJ report 'regarding the criminal investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown' states "The media has widely reported that there is witness testimony that Brown said “don’t shoot” as he held his hands above his head. In fact, our investigation did not reveal any eyewitness who stated that Brown said “don’t shoot.” The report also states that; "Brown’s blood in the roadway demonstrates that Brown came forward at least 21.6 feet from the time he turned around toward Wilson." and "There is no witness who has stated that Brown had his hands up in surrender whose statement is otherwise consistent with the physical evidence. Again, all of these statements are contradicted by the physical and forensic evidence, which also undermines the credibility of their accounts of other aspects of the incident, including their assertion that Brown had his hands up in a surrender position when Wilson shot him."[17]

"Pants up, don't loot"

National Review's Ryan Lovelace, reported on a single counter protester shouting "pants up, don't loot" in response to protesters in Ferguson chanting "Hands up, don't shoot".[18] According International Business Times, the National Review's derogatory use of "pants up, don't loot", prompted supporters of Darren Wilson, the officer involved in the shooting, to raise more than $3,000 on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo to purchase a billboard ad in the Ferguson area displaying "pants up, don't loot" in black text on a white background.[19][20] Despite reaching its goal, the campaign cancelled the project due to controversy.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Citation needed |date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 {{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}
  2. {{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}
  3. Bump, Philip (December 1, 2014). "Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) brings 'Hands up, don't shoot' to House floor". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/12/01/rep-hakeem-jeffries-d-n-y-brings-hands-up-dont-shoot-to-house-floor/. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
  4. "No fines for Rams players' salute". ESPN. http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/11963218/the-five-st-louis-rams-players-saluted-slain-teenager-michael-brown-sunday-game-not-fined. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  5. "Rams player says he received threats after 'Hands up, don't shoot' protest". CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/04/us/rams-threats-ferguson/. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  6. 6.0 6.1 McCalmont, Lucy (December 2, 2014). "Lawmakers make 'hands up' gesture on House floor". Politico. http://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/lawmakers-ferguson-hands-up-113254.html. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
  7. "Black Congressional Staffers Stage Powerful 'Hands Up, Don't Shoot' Protest". New York. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/12/black-congressional-workers-stage-moving-protest.html. Retrieved December 12, 2014.
  8. "Capitol Hill's Black Staffers Walk Out to Say 'Hands Up, Don't Shoot!'". http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/12/10/black-congressional-staffers-plan-ferguson-garner-walkout.html. Retrieved December 12, 2014.
  9. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=citation }}
  10. Connor, Jackson. "CNN Hosts Under Fire For Putting 'Hands Up' On Air, Critics Claim Bias". The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/15/cnn-hands-up-host-under-fire-critics-claim-bias_n_6327546.html. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
  11. Opam, Kwame. "Pharrell's Grammy Performance Was a Hopeful Yet Muddled Statement about Race in America." The Verge. N.p., 8 Feb. 2015. Web. <http://www.theverge.com/2015/2/8/8002983/pharrell-grammys-2015-racism-america-hands-up-dont-shoot>.
  12. "For some, location of Brown's hands irrelevant". Associated Press. Fox News. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/11/27/hands-up-dont-shoot-becomes-rallying-cry-despite-questions-whether-hands-were/. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  13. "'Hands Up, Don't Shoot' Is Bigger than Ferguson and Bigger than the Rams". VICE Sports. https://sports.vice.com/article/hands-up-dont-shoot-is-bigger-than-ferguson-and-bigger-than-the-rams. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  14. "Beyond 'Hands Up, Don't Shoot': what if there's no indictment in Ferguson?". The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/10/no-indictment-ferguson-no-justice-michael-brown. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  15. Evans, Sophie Jane (November 29, 2014). "Did Michael Brown ever really say, 'Hands up, don't shoot'? Ferguson protesters' rallying cry may be based on a lie". Daily Mail. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2854388/Did-Michael-Brown-really-say-Hands-don-t-shoot-Ferguson-protesters-rallying-cry-based-lie.html. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
  16. Michelle Ye Hee Lee (19 March 2015). "‘Hands up, don’t shoot’ did not happen in Ferguson". Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2015/03/19/hands-up-dont-shoot-did-not-happen-in-ferguson/.
  17. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=citation }}
  18. {{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}
  19. Koplowitz, Howard (November 17, 2014). "'Pants Up, Don't Loot' Billboard Planned By Darren Wilson Supporters As Ferguson Grand Jury Decision Nears". International Business Times. http://www.ibtimes.com/pants-dont-loot-billboard-planned-darren-wilson-supporters-ferguson-grand-jury-1725029. Retrieved December 3, 2014.
  20. "Supporters Of Ferguson Cop Plan 'Pants Up, Don't Loot' Billboard". TPM. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/pants-up-dont-loot-billboard-ferguson.

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