“I always figured Ferguson, Missouri, was known,” said Webster University senior education major Steward Stiles. “But apparently nobody knew what Ferguson was.”
Stiles has lived in Ferguson for seven years. His home is within walking distance from where the initial incident happened, and on the night of the first protests, tear gas flowed into his home. He lives with his parents — his father is a Pentacostal Minister and his mother comes from an army family — and was traveling home from Kansas City with them when Mike Brown was shot and killed. He experienced the initial misinformation that was being reported from his phone on the car ride home.
“Seeing all this stuff about Mike Brown and Ferguson, a 17 year old boy got shot, then it went to 21 then it went to 18, so there were a lot of different stories, so we were just trying to make sense of it all,” Stiles said.
Stiles had never had a bad run-in with the police, which is something he attributes to the way he was raised and the way he carries himself. This has made him feel disconnected form the black community in his life, but that did not stop him from attending protests. He said he preferred the organized protests at first, but went to where the incident happened and saw something that he did not see on TV.
“It was also a beautiful sight because you saw not only black faces there, but you saw other races there […] there were a multiplicity of nations that were there,” Stiles said. “And I think one of the things the cameras didn’t capture, they captured more a violent nature, but during the day if was so beautiful.
“You couldn’t tell me that this wasn’t a peace fest.”