Post-Ferguson protests are viral, a hybrid of old school and new wave that can skitter in unpredictable directions, McClatchy Newspapers reports. Today, the fourth day following a grand jury's decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, demonstrations are expected in cities nationwide. Some activists pushed for a boycott of the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday sales day. Some demonstrations, such as a rally at Atlanta's Morehouse College, have been marked by public prayer and song. Taken together, all reflect the varied face of 21st century social protest. “When you see people kneeling down on the highway, they're trained to do that . . . it is just straight-up tactics from the civil rights movement,” said James Peterson, director of Africana Studies at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. “But social media certainly has been a great tool.”
Twitter has been engorged with Ferguson-related postings. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, 580,000 Tweets citing Ferguson were counted by the analytical service Topsy. One targeted hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, was included in 72,000 Tweets in just one day. Underscoring the reach of social media, prisoners at Boston's South Bay Detention Facility held up signs reading “#BlackLivesMatter” to high-security windows. Other social media venues, such as Facebook, have been aflame with Ferguson news and commentary. One page alone, called Justice for Mike Brown, accumulated 43,934 “Likes” as of Wednesday. “So many people are getting information from their friends or circles of people they know,” said Frank Sesno, director of George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs and a former CNN Washington bureau chief. “What's changed is word of mouth is much faster, more powerful. The amplifier role of social media has gotten bigger and louder.” With its low cost and ease of use, social media enables anyone to become an organizer on the fly, and potentially reach a wide audience without help of a traditional organization.