What brought you to Ferguson?
Salima Koroma, TIME: "Just after the shooting, I did a story about [civil rights activist] Dick Gregory, using his narration of civil rights protests in 1965. My editor and I realized that the issues that he’s talking about, the reasons people are angry, matches what’s happening in Ferguson today. So, my editor sent me down here."
AW: "You fly into St. Louis, and it seems like a typical Middle American town. You’ve got your nice little suburbs with their one-acre lots, kids playing outside — and then you literally drive over this hill, and it’s like you’re in a war zone. Boarded-up storefronts with spray paint everywhere. The ground is covered in trash. There are cops fortifying every single corner."
AW: "We met a lot of young men who feel very emotionally charged because Michael Brown hits close to home for them. For them, they could’ve been a Michael Brown. But, we also met a 72-year-old woman who’s been out here every night, who’s lived in Ferguson for 40 years. You have middle-aged parents, you have white students from the University of Missouri, you’ve got church groups that come in and hand out water for free to people."
Is there more to this than just Michael Brown?
AC: "As we spoke to more and more people, they said it’s not a black or white issue, that it’s a systemic problem with the police force in this county."
Women were notably absent in a lot of the coverage we saw. Was the situation different on the ground?
SK: "You know, a lot of the images in the media are shirtless guys with bandanas confronting the cops — and maybe the media likes those because they’re better photos, more sensational. But, there are lots of women, too. I’d say the crowds were 60/40, with big groups of women praying, speaking into loudspeakers, reminding people about the curfew."
We saw a lot about the more violent protests at night. Was the situation different during the day?
PH: "Early in the day, men, children, women who looked like mothers who had written their signs in their kitchen. The quiet protesters who didn’t make the news in this case. But, also young men, boys who look like they could have been classmates of Michael Brown, walking around in the daylight in organized lines, yelling ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.’ And, they weren’t doing it to taunt the police, they were just doing it as a peaceful protest."
Was your experience different as a woman?
AW: "I’m not here on a ‘woman journalist' escapade. I think it’s not about gender. It’s more about if you’re good reporter. Do you know how to handle yourself in a chaotic scene? Do you know how to talk to people who feel underrepresented? Do you know how to talk to cops that people are afraid of and that maybe you’re afraid of? That has nothing to do with gender. It has to do with your skills as a reporter."
AC: "For me, it was this one group of teenagers, about six of them. We’re off to the side of the parking lot, and we’re trying to obey the rules, so that we’re not going to get them in trouble just by interviewing them — because the cops just hate it when we get these teenagers grouped together. One of the kids was, you know, performing for the camera. He was talking about Mike Brown and talking about being a black man here in Ferguson and the rubber bullets and the gas masks and all of that. And, his friend who was next to him grabs him and starts yelling at him, 'Stop acting black. Stop fucking acting black.' That phrase — because it was so raw, and it was so real — was extremely overwhelming. They literally dropped the mic and ran. And, that’s when we turned around and saw these cops walking toward us. And, they say, 'Get the hell out the way, interview’s over.'"
It’s been two weeks, the news media will soon head home. What happens now?
PH: "I think that it’ll be a long time before things change in Ferguson. There are a lot of levels of leadership there that need to assess what’s going on in that community, but the conversation that was sparked, the spotlight that was thrown on race relations, will continue. At least, I hope it will. The people of Ferguson have been through so much."