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‘Something sinister is at play?’ Activists speculate on mysterious deaths of six men heavily involved in the 2014 Ferguson protests

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‘Fate or coincidence?
‘Are the Ferguson protesters are being systematically murdered?’

Mystery surrounds the deaths of six men heavily involved in the 2014 Ferguson protests, as activists speculate whether ‘something sinister is at play’
Six young men from different parts of the country, all with connections to Ferguson protests, have all met untimely deaths in St. Louis County over the past four years
Daren Seals, 29, was found in a burning car in Sept 2016, his body was riddled with bullets
Danye Jones, 24, was found hanging from a tree in the yard of his north St. Louis County home; MarShawn McCarrel, 23, of Columbus, Ohio, also took his own life after shooting himself in Feb 2016 outside the front door of the Ohio Statehouse
Edward Crawford Jr. shot himself after telling acquaintances he had been distraught over personal issues; Bassem Masri, 31, was found dead on a bus after taking a drug overdose, while Deandre Joshua, 20, was shot in the head before the car was torched
Though manner of death appear disparate, attention has been drawn on social media and there’s speculation in the activist community that something sinister is at play 
Despite speculation that Ferguson protesters are being systematically murdered, however, there is no evidence to suggest it is anything more than coincidental
As many involved  in the protests continue to face harassment and threats, activists and observers are puzzled and wonder if they’ll ever get answers

Six men with connections to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, have all met untimely deaths in the past four years drawing speculation in the activist community that something sinister is at play.
Attention has been drawn on social media and speculation in the activist community that something sinister is at play after six young men, all with connections to Ferguson protests, have all had untimely deaths in St. Louis County over the past four years.

As many of those involved in the protests continue to face harassment and threats, speculation is rife that the Ferguson protesters are being systematically murdered. However, there is no evidence to suggest it is anything more than coincidental.
Concerned, activists and observers remain puzzled and wonder if they’ll ever find answers to a string of  ‘coincidental deaths’ of a group of people linked together by their activism against the tragic events in Ferguson back in October 2014.

Gallery: Daren Seals, [top left], was found in a burning car in September 2016. His body was riddled with bullets. 24-year-old Danye Jones, [top center], was found hanging from a tree in the yard of his north St. Louis County home. MarShawn McCarrel, 23, [top right], of Columbus, Ohio, shot himself in February 2016 outside the front door of the Ohio Statehouse, Edward Crawford Jr., [bottom left], fatally shot himself after telling acquaintances he had been distraught over personal issues. Bassem Masri, 31, [center bottom], was found dead on a bus after taking a drug overdose. Deandre Joshua, 20, [bottom right], was shot in the head before the car was torched.
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Two were found dead inside torched cars, three died of apparent suicides and another collapsed on a bus, his death ruled an overdose.
Police say there is no evidence the deaths have anything to do with the protests stemming from a white police officer’s fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, and that only two were homicides with no known link to the protests.

In this now iconic photo, Edward Crawford Jr., returns a tear gas canister fired by police who were trying to disperse protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014.
The Ferguson Riots involved protests and riots that began the day after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri.
In the aftermath Edward Crawford Jr. gained national attention after a is now iconic photo, showing him returning a tear gas canister fired by police who were trying to disperse protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014.
Crawford fatally shot himself in May 2017 after telling acquaintances he had been distraught over personal issues. He was in the midst of negotiating a plea deal over charges partially stemming from his actions depicted in the photo at the time.
Dead: Edward Crawford Jr., was in the midst of negotiating a plea deal over charges partially stemming from his actions depicted in the photo when he took his own life

But some activists say their concerns about a possible connection arise out of a culture of fear that persists in Ferguson four-and-a-half years after Brown’s death, citing threats – mostly anonymous – that protest leaders continue to receive.
The Rev. Darryl Gray said he found a box inside his car. When the bomb squad arrived, no explosives were found but a 6-foot (1.8-meter) python was inside.

‘Everybody is on pins and needles,’ Gray said of his fellow activists.
No arrests have been made in the two homicides. St. Louis County police spokesman Shawn McGuire said witnesses have simply refused to come forward, leaving detectives with no answers for why the men were targeted.
‘We don’t believe either one was connected to each other,’ McGuire said, but adding, ‘It’s tough to come up with a motive without a suspect.’

Dead: In this November  2014 photo, Ferguson activist Daren Seals, top center, is pictured. Seals has  died. The 29-year-old’s bullet-riddled body was found in a burning car in Sept 2016. Seals was a well known activist in Ferguson. He was extremely vocal about the death of Michael Brown. 

Ferguson erupted in protests in August 2014 after officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Brown during a street confrontation. Brown was unarmed, but Wilson said he fired in self-defense when the black teenager came at him menacingly.
A grand jury declined to charge Wilson in November 2014, prompting one of the most violent nights of demonstrations, and one of the first activist deaths.

Dead: Deandre Joshua’s body was found inside a burned car blocks from the protest. He was shot in the head before the car he was driving was set ablaze

Deandre Joshua’s body was found inside a burned car blocks from the protest. The 20-year-old was shot in the head before the car was torched.
Darren Seals, shown on video comforting Brown’s mother that same night, met an almost identical fate two years later. The 29-year-old’s bullet-riddled body was found inside a burning car in September 2016.
Four others also died, three of them ruled suicides.

Harassed: Cori Bush’s car has been run off the road, her home vandalized, and in 2014 someone shot a bullet into her car, narrowly missing her 13-year-old daughter.

Another protester, Cori Bush, said her car has been run off the road, her home has been vandalized, and in 2014 someone shot a bullet into her car, narrowly missing her daughter, who was 13 at the time


Dead: MarShawn McCarrel [photo], of Columbus, Ohio, shot himself in February 2016 outside the front door of the Ohio Statehouse. McCarrel o had been active in Ferguson

MarShawn McCarrel, 23, of Columbus, Ohio, shot himself in February 2016 outside the front door of the Ohio Statehouse, police said. He had been active in Ferguson.
Edward Crawford Jr., 27, fatally shot himself in May 2017 after telling acquaintances he had been distraught over personal issues, police said. A photo of Crawford firing a tear gas canister back at police during a Ferguson protest was part of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage.
In October, 24-year-old Danye Jones was found hanging from a tree in the yard of his north St. Louis County home. His mother, Melissa McKinnies, was active in Ferguson and posted on Facebook after her son’s death, ‘They lynched my baby.’ But the death was ruled a suicide.

Dead: Danye Jones, 24, was found hanging from a tree in the yard of his north St. Louis County home. His mother, Melissa McKinnies, was active in Ferguson and posted on Facebook after her son’s death, ‘They lynched my baby.’ But the death was ruled a suicide
‘They lynched my baby’: Prominent Ferguson protester Melissa McKinnies [left] is calling on police to further investigate the apparent suicide of her son Danye Jones [left]. McKinnies believes Jones was murdered

Bassem Masri, a 31-year-old Palestinian American who frequently livestreamed video of Ferguson demonstrations, was found unresponsive on a bus in November and couldn’t be revived. Toxicology results released in February showed he died of an overdose of fentanyl.
The Ferguson protests added momentum to the national Black Lives Matter movement, but they also generated resentment from people angered by TV footage of protesters hurling rocks and insults at police. Amid lingering anger, activists and observers say that while they see no clear connection between the deaths and the protests, they can’t help but wonder about the thoroughness of the investigations.

Harassed:  Darryl Gray was a pastor with deep roots in civil rights activism. Gray said he found a box inside his car. When the bomb squad arrived, no explosives were found but a 6-foot python was inside

‘These protesters and their deaths may not be a high priority for (police) since there is this antagonistic relationship,’ Washington University sociologist Odis Johnson said. ‘I think there is a need for them to have a greater sense of urgency.
Activists say that in the years since the protests, they have been targeted in dangerous ways.
‘Something is happening,’ said Cori Bush, a frequent leader of the Ferguson protests. ‘I’ve been vocal about the things that I’ve experienced and still experience – the harassment, the intimidation, the death threats, the death attempts.’

Bush said her car has been run off the road, her home has been vandalized, and in 2014 someone shot a bullet into her car, narrowly missing her daughter, who was 13 at the time.
She suspects white supremacists or police sympathizers. Living under constant threat is exhausting, she said, but she won’t give in.
‘They shut us up and they win,’ Bush said.

Dead: Activist Bassem Masri, 31, who frequently livestreamed video of Ferguson demonstrations, was found unresponsive on a bus in Nov, 2018 and couldn’t be revived.
Protesters in ferguson Mo., after the Micheal Brown shootingProtesters confront police in Ferguson police in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting in 2014
Ferguson was set ablaze for nights on end with rioting in the streets after Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was killed by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer.
It’s unclear if residual stress from the protests or harassment contributed to the suicides, but Johnson said many activists feel a sense of hopelessness.
‘This has to have a big impact on their mental health,’ Johnson said. ‘For many, law enforcement is not a recourse. Many times law enforcement is not on their side.’

Experts say the deaths also are indicative of a concern at the core of the protests – the underlying difficulty of life for young people of color. Five of the men who died were blacks in their 20s
Black St. Louis County residents are three times more likely than whites to be poor, often meaning they lack adequate health insurance that could allow them to better address not only physical ailments but mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Family members said bruises were found on Danye Jones’ face and the sheets that were used to hang him did not come from the family’s house
Jones, 24, was found hanging from a tree (pictured) in his family’s backyard in St Louis, Missouri on October 17

They also tend to live in areas with higher crime rates. The 2010 U.S. census showed that while people who live in wealthy and mostly white western St. Louis County can expect to live well into their 80s, life expectancy in parts of mostly black north St. Louis County reaches only into the 60s. Life expectancy in Kinloch, a few miles from Ferguson, is 56.
Forty-five of the county’s 60 homicide victims last year were black in a county where less than a quarter of the population is black, according to police statistics.
‘Here in St. Louis, unfortunately, we have allowed the culture of crime and violence to morph into dimensions that anybody’s at risk any day, any time,’ said James Clark of the nonprofit Better Family Life.

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