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#IfTheyGunnedMeDown: Missouri shooting sparks debate

Trending on Facebook

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The fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the ensuing protests and riots have galvanized social media with the hot-trending hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown.

The campaign was spawned by the specific use of a photo of Brown, who was set to begin his first day of college on Monday. The photo, from his Twitter page, shows him in a red Nike tank top flashing a peace sign. Critics say the photo can imply that Brown was throwing up a gang sign and that there were dozens of other photos – of him smiling, laughing, or even in his high school cap and gown that could have been used.

Linda Chavers, an African-American literature professor who recently taught at Temple University, said people are using social media as a way to write their own story.

“Black Twitter does a really good job of reframing the traditional ways that we talk about issues such as police brutality, discrimination and violence,” said Chavers, who tweets at @contrarynegress. “Specifically, it is a way for us to talk about things that concern us, such as when we are killed. The hashtag is saying, this is my narrative, versus mainstream media talking about what I am wearing or my troubles in school.”

The premise of the hashtag campaign is simple.

Posters tweeted two photographs of themselves and asked the question, “Which one of these photographs would the media use if I were gunned down in the streets?”

The results were compelling. Read some of the Tweets.

>> Read more trending stories

@King_Ghidorah5 posted a photo of him lying mean-faced on a bed with his sweat pants sagging. He contrasted that with a photo of himself in a military uniform, reading books to children in a school.

In his post, @MandingoRFC looks at the camera while his friend flashes a peace sign. Next to it is a photo of him holding a poster of a young Nigerian girl. He was wearing a T-shirt reading #BringBackOurGirls, to call attention to their kidnappings. His gaze is more worried than intimidating.

On his Facebook page, more than 90 percent of the photos of Muhammad Malik, an inventory control manager at Versace USA, show him in a suit and tie.

So he posted one of them, with a picture of him in a black tank top wearing a black doo-rag. His arms are folded, showing his arms full of tattoos.

He said he took the selfie one day on vacation while he was getting ready to put on a suit and go out.

“Any time we have one of these tragedies, the media doesn’t pick the best picture to portray the victim. It is not fair,” he said. “So when I saw the hashtag, I said, ‘If it happened to me, what picture would they use? Someone could pick one picture and paint a picture of me.”

With that, Malik also cleaned up his Facebook page. Taking out vacation and party photos that might misrepresent him.

“I have a 23-year-old son. He is out there being a young guy,” said Malik, who tweets as @mr_mookie . “I always tell him the same thing, you have to really be careful of what you post, because you never know when that is gonna come back to bite you. If you not around to speak, these photos are gonna speak for you.”

Fahamu Pecou is an artist and scholar who specializes in representations of black masculinity.

The typical narrative in America “has historically worked to justify inequitable treatment of black males within society by imaging them as violent and criminal,” Pecou said. “The #IfTheyGunnedMeDown campaign is a smart and savvy response to the propaganda machine that continues to perpetuate an implied inherent criminality of black men.

“A part of resisting the outright assault on people of color is raising awareness to the way hegemonic systems of racism and prejudice inform and influence not only police reaction to young black people, but society as well.”

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News

  • The British man who killed four people during a London rampage had made three trips to Saudi Arabia: He taught English there twice on a work visa and returned on a visa usually granted to those going on a religious pilgrimage. More details about attacker Khalid Masood's travels, confirmed by the Saudi Arabian embassy in Britain, emerged Saturday amid a massive British police effort to discover how a homegrown ex-con with a violent streak became radicalized and why he launched a deadly attack Wednesday on Westminster Bridge. The embassy said he taught English in Saudi Arabia from November 2005 to November 2006 and again from April 2008 to April 2009, with legitimate work visas both times. He then returned to Saudi Arabia for six days in March 2015 on a trip booked through an approved travel agent and made on an 'Umra' visa, usually granted to those on a religious pilgrimage to the country's Islamic holy sites. The embassy said Saudi security services didn't track Masood and he didn't have a criminal record there. Before taking the name Masood, he was called Adrian Elms. He was known for having a violent temper in England and had been convicted at least twice for violent crimes. Masood drove his rented SUV across London's crowded Westminster Bridge on Wednesday, striking pedestrians. Then he jumped out and stabbed to death police officer Keith Palmer, who was guarding Parliament, before being shot dead by police. In all, he killed four people and left more than two dozen hospitalized, including some with catastrophic injuries. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack, calling him a 'solider' who responded to its demands that followers attack countries in the coalition fighting IS in Syria and Iraq. British officials said security at Parliament will be reviewed after new footage emerged that showed the large gates to the complex were left open after Masood rushed onto the grounds. There are concerns that accomplices could have followed him in and killed even more people. The footage from that day shows pedestrians walking by the open gates and even a courier entering Parliament grounds. Former Metropolitan Police commissioner Ian Blair told the BBC that changes to the 'outer soft ring' of Parliament's security plan are likely in the aftermath of Masood's attack. The new footage follows earlier video that showed slight delays and confusion during the evacuation of Prime Minister Theresa May from Parliament as the attack unfolded. Masood, who at 52 is considerably older than most extremists who carry out bloodshed in the West, had an arrest record in Britain dating to 1983. In 2000, he slashed a man across the face in a pub parking lot in a racially charged argument after drinking, according to a newspaper account. Masood's last conviction, in 2003, also involved a knife attack. One victim, Danny Smith, told The Sun newspaper that Masood had stabbed him in the face with a kitchen knife after an argument just three days after they met. Hundreds of British police have been working to determine his motives and are scouring Masood's communications systems, including his possible use of the encrypted WhatsApp device, to help determine if he had any accomplices. Still, police have released many of those they took in for questioning in the case. One 58-year-old man remains in custody for questioning after being arrested Thursday in the central English city of Birmingham, where Masood was living. Authorities haven't charged or identified him. A 32-year-old woman arrested in Manchester has been released on bail and faces further inquiries. Police said Saturday that a 27-year-old man arrested Thursday in Birmingham has been released. Eight others arrested in connection with the investigation had been set free earlier, including a 39-year-old woman who had initially been freed on bail but now faces no further police action, police said Saturday. Details about how Masood became radicalized aren't clear, although he may have become exposed to radical views while an inmate in Britain or while working in conservative Saudi Arabia. It's also not clear when he took the name Masood, suggesting a conversion to Islam.
  • RADFORD, N.C. (AP) - A North Carolina sheriff says a newborn and the baby's 2-year-old sister have been found stabbed to death.Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin tells WRAL (http://bit.ly/2n1S80h) the bodies of 4-day-old Genesis Freeman and 2-year-old Serenity Freeman were found Saturday in the woods near an intersection close to the city of Raeford.Before they were found, their 30-year-old father Tillman Freeman was arrested and charged with two counts of child abuse and child endangerment. Authorities said the father refused to cooperate with the investigation into the children's whereabouts. TRENDING STORIES: Plane crashes near Cobb County home; 1 killed Company will pay you $10K a month to travel, stay in luxury homes Home Depot accused of unsafe practices; Criminal investigation launched They have not said who they think killed the children, who were reported missing following a domestic dispute. Freeman's wife was in a local hospital when the children disappeared.Details about the domestic dispute were not immediately released. It's not clear whether Freeman has an attorney.
  • Tens of thousands protested Saturday under sunny skies in London against plans for Britain to withdraw from the European Union. The Unite for Europe march, which saw many people carrying bright blue EU flags, came just days before Britain is expected to begin its formal separation from the other 27 nations in the EU. The crowds observed a minute of silence at Parliament Square as a tribute to the four victims killed and dozens wounded in an attack Wednesday on Parliament. Many bowed their heads as Big Ben chimed and placed flowers at Parliament's gate to honor the victims. Police did not provide a crowd estimate. Organizers said more than 25,000 people were present. There was also a smaller anti-Brexit protest march in Edinburgh, Scotland. Organizers considered delaying the long-planned march because of the attack — in part to avoid putting extra strain on British police — but decided to go ahead. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron told the crowd that 'democracy continues' despite the assault. 'We stand in defiance of that attack,' he said. Prime Minister Theresa May plans to trigger Article 50 of the EU treaty on Wednesday, setting the Brexit process in motion. Negotiations are expected to take at least two years. Britain voted in a June 23 referendum to leave the EU.
  • Construction workers are about the hardest-working people in America. Once you’ve put shingles on a roof in the summer, there’s not much else that can hurt you. But one thief apparently decided to try to test his luck, and it did not end well for him. >> Read more trending news According to KTVT, a now-viral video taken from a security camera in University Park, Texas, near Dallas captured the dramatic scene. The thief jumped out of a red car, swiped a piece of equipment and tried to make a getaway, police said. But he probably wasn’t counting on the hard-working Texans who weren’t willing to let anything go from their site. KTVT reported Saturday that the workers chased after the alleged thief – with one worker atop the hood of the getaway car. The video, which has been viewed more than 766,000 times since it was posted to YouTube on Friday, also appears to show the workers ramming the vehicle with a truck. >> Watch the clip here Police said they are still searching for the alleged thief, who faces a property theft charge, WTVT reported. The worker shown on the car hood in the video was not hurt, police said. Read more here. – The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.