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A grand jury's decision not to prosecute Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown set off a new wave of protests in Ferguson, Mo., on Nov. 24, 2014. A grand jury's decision not to prosecute Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown set off a new wave of protests in Ferguson, Mo., on Nov. 24, 2014.

A grand jury's decision not to prosecute Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown set off a new wave of protests in Ferguson, Mo., on Nov. 24, 2014.

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher November 19, 2021

If Your Time is short

  • Former Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said no such incidents occurred. The current chief said he is not aware of any record of such shootings.

  • There are accounts from protesters who said the shootings did happen. A woman who recorded Ferguson protests told a St. Louis newspaper she recalled that multiple gunshots were fired at an event for Brown that she attended in January 2015. Another woman said on Facebook she was grazed by a bullet in the incident and gave it to an officer, but police said they had no record.

  • Bush did not respond to press inquiries to provide evidence for her claim. 

The day before a jury in Wisconsin began deliberations that would result in the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse on homicide charges, Missouri’s first Black congresswoman made a years-after-the-fact claim about protests that followed the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown.

Brown was killed in 2014 in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb, in a case that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement.

Bush, a St. Louis Democrat, tweeted her account on Nov. 15, 2021. She wrote:

"When we marched in Ferguson, white supremacists would hide behind a hill near where Michael Brown Jr. was murdered and shoot at us. They never faced consequences. If Kyle Rittenhouse gets acquitted, it tells them that even 7 years later they still can get away with it."

On Nov. 19, a jury found Rittenhouse not guilty on all felony counts.

A grand jury in the Ferguson case decided not to indict the officer, Darren Wilson, who later resigned from the department.

Protests over Brown’s death were sometimes chaotic but, while Bush’s claim suggests marchers were repeatedly shot at, incidents of alleged gunfire at marchers were not widely reported.

We found accounts differed about whether shootings happened as Bush said they did, so we’re not rating this claim. 

Here’s what we know.

Brown shooting set off protests

Brown, a Black teen, was unarmed when he was shot to death by Wilson, who is white, on Aug. 9, 2014. Before being shot, Brown fought with Wilson, who had responded to a call that Brown reached across the counter at a store, took packages of cigarillos and shoved a store employee. The protests that Bush referenced in her tweet ensued for months.

Bush, a nurse and a pastor, became a progressive community leader and Black Lives Matter activist after Brown’s death. She won election to the House in 2020.

Bush, a nurse and a pastor, became a progressive community leader and Black Lives Matter activist after Brown’s death. She won election to the House in 2020.

Seven years later, Rittenhouse, a white teen, claimed self-defense in shooting three white people, two fatally, during violent protests in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 25, 2021. The protests there played out over three days after a white Kenosha police officer shot and wounded a Black man who had been armed with a knife as police, responding to a domestic violence call, tussled with him. 

No evidence from Bush

We sent multiple emails to several members of Bush’s congressional staff, to her campaign and to her 2020 campaign spokesperson, but didn’t get a reply.

Bush’s campaign, on the same day as her tweet, issued this statement to news media, repeating the claim but providing no evidence:

"While on the frontlines of the Ferguson Uprising, Congresswoman Bush and other activists were shot at by white supremacist vigilantes. The question we need to ask is why white supremacists feel empowered to open-carry rifles, incite violence, and put Black lives at risk across our country."

Accounts of such shootings

Replying to Bush’s tweet, Ohun Ashe, a St. Louis activist, tweeted, with a reference to Canfield Green, the Ferguson neighborhood where Brown was killed:

"This is FACTS! I vividly remember hiding under porches in Canfield as shots were fired at us. No one came to help us. We would come from under porches using cars as shields in between gun shots to make it out."

A woman who livestreamed the Ferguson protests, Heather De Mian, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in a story about Bush’s tweet that she recalled that on Jan. 19, 2015, shots were fired at protesters, injuring one, but that she could not identify the shooter. She described semi-automatic gunfire "from the hill behind Canfield," that at least 10 shots went off before she took cover and that there were "a lot" of shots after that.

KMOV-TV in St. Louis reported the same night of the protest that police found no evidence of shots fired at the scene. A short time later a person with a gunshot wound went to a hospital, but police didn’t know the circumstances of that shooting.

A Facebook post published the day after the incident by a man who said he attended the gathering claimed that more than 20 shots were fired, hitting a vehicle’s windshield and grazing one woman who then went to a hospital. A woman who replied to the post wrote that she gave the bullet to a Ferguson police officer, "S. Wilson," at the hospital.

A Ferguson police records clerk told PolitiFact the department does not have any reports about the woman, Meechie Jordan.

Police chief at the time denies claim

The current police chief says he is not aware of any such incident, and the chief at the time denied that any such shootings occurred.

Frank McCall, who has been chief since July 2021, said he didn’t know that there was any record of such an incident, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. "None that I’m aware of," said McCall, adding he wasn’t aware of any incidents that the tweet might be referencing, according to the newspaper.

McCall and the police department did not reply to our requests for more information.

The former chief, Tom Jackson, told a talk show host on KFTK-FM in St. Louis that Bush’s claim is "a bald-faced lie…now we have, all of a sudden, white supremacists hiding behind hills, shooting at protestors? And not hitting them, of course, but shooting at them. That's just absurd, it didn't happen."

Jackson resigned soon after the U.S. Justice Department issued a report in March 2015 about racial bias and profiling in Ferguson law enforcement.

Protesters near Ferguson police headquarters on March 12, 2015, were celebrating Jackson’s resignation when shots were fired from a passing car, wounding two area law enforcement officers. A Black man, Jeffrey Williams, was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison. 

Several protesters at the scene said the shots appeared to have been fired from a hill behind a dwindling group of demonstrators, The Guardian newspaper reported at the time. "I would have to make an assumption that these shots were directed exactly at my police officers," St. Louis County police chief Jon Belmar said then.

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Our Sources

Twitter, Cori Bush tweet (archived here), Nov. 15, 2021

Twitter, Ohun Ashe tweet, Nov. 15, 2021

Facebook, Peggy Hubbard post, Nov. 16, 2021

Facebook, Alex Poucher post, Jan. 20, 2015

The Guardian, "Ferguson police duo shot during protest were seriously injured, officers say," March 12, 2015

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Rep. Cori Bush says white supremacists shot at Ferguson protesters, but chief not aware of incident," Nov. 16, 2021

Interview, Ferguson Police Department records clerk, Nov. 19,  2021 (KFTK-FM), "'That's a bald-faced lie’-- Former Ferguson Police Chief rips Rep. Bush for shooting claim," Nov. 17, 2021 

Associated Press, "Cori Bush: White Supremacists Shot at Ferguson Protesters," Nov. 16, 2021

Associated Press, "Police use tear gas on crowd outside St. Louis," Aug. 11, 2014

Associated Press, "Timeline of events in shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson," Aug. 8, 2019

KMOV-TV, "Police investigating shooting at Canfield Green Apartments," Jan. 19, 2021

Orange County Register, "Timeline of events after fatal police shooting in Ferguson," Feb. 10, 2016

Fox News, "Cori Bush raises eyebrows with claim of being shot at by White supremacists, police chief unaware of evidence," Nov. 17, 2021 

Facebook, "Fact Check: Did 'White Supremacists' SHOOT AT Cori Bush?", Nov. 16, 2021

PolitiFact, "The death of Michael Brown, legal facts and Democratic messaging," Aug. 14, 2019

Snopes, "Did White Supremacists Shoot at Rep. Cori Bush and Ferguson Protesters?", Nov. 18, 2021

PolitiFact, "Fact-checking the Ferguson protests, one year from Michael Brown's death," Aug. 11, 2015

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