What the Michael Brown shooting looked like to an eyewitness on Twitter

What do you do when the world explodes on the street where you live?

Mar 1, 2020, 11:23 pm*

Internet Culture

Aja Romano 

Aja Romano

What do you do when the world explodes on the street where you live?

For one bystander in Ferguson who reportedly saw Michael Brown shot before his eyes, the answer is: Keep tweeting.

Twitter user TheePharoah is a St. Louis rapper living in Ferguson. He is located in the literal epicenter of the Ferguson protests—so close that he was an eyewitness to the shooting of Michael Brown. 

On Aug. 9, TheePharoah was at home in his apartment when he witnessed the Brown shooting happening right in front of his building. He took to Twitter to give his real-time impression of what he’d just seen.

At that point, TheePharoah tweeted a photo, apparently taken from his window, of Brown’s body lying in the street, a Ferguson police officer standing over it. (Warning: The photo is graphic.) 

When bystanders asked him for details, TheePharoah gave his account of the shooting.

Stuck in his apartment behind police tape for the four hours that Michael Brown’s body lay in the street, TheePharoah kept tweeting.

As tensions rose, he kept piping updates to Twitter.

The full timeline of TheePharoah’s account of the shooting depicts a shaken bystander trying to process what he’s just seen. But over the following week, his eyes and ears would be an important part of the public record about what was really happening in Ferguson, as the police response against the protests escalated.

TheePharoah’s Twitter timeline records more than just the events happening on the streets of Ferguson. It’s also a document of a man having his eyes opened.

At first, TheePharoah’s main concern after his shock was wondering how the incident would affect his job.

But over the next few days, after seeing what was happening around him, that steadily changed.

So did his desire for caution and calm.

Through it all he spoke of the important of the on-the-street reporting he and his fellow citizens in Ferguson were doing, and urged others to keep tweeting.

He also kept tweeting pictures from yesterday’s peace rally—which took place, as did the shooting, right before his eyes.

As the world turned its eyes to the citizen journalism of Twitter users like Antonio French during the protests, few people initially noticed TheePharoah’s timeline.

But while it doesn’t approach the tragedy of Brown’s death, TheePharoah’s timeline is an important glimpse into the way violence impacts everyone in a community—whether they’re watching it unfold on Twitter, or right outside their door.

Photo by theepharoah/Twitter

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*First Published: Aug 16, 2014, 12:59 pm