Two hands raised in the air is a classic gesture of surrender to authority. But protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, have turned it into a defiant symbol and a rallying cry: “Hands up, don’t shoot!” Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot to death by a police officer on Saturday, August 9, in the St. Louis suburb. Eyewitnesses say that when the last shots were fired, Brown had his hands up. Ever since, many of Ferguson’s black residents have vented their frustration, anger, and sadness at a variety of protests, boldly facing a heavy, intimidating police presence with their hands in the air. And like that, the gesture of submission that police often demand of civilians has become a provocative challenge. These photographs offer a glimpse of the way “hands up, don’t shoot” has come to define the Ferguson demonstrations.

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