Since unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was brutally gunned down by police officer Darren Wilson* in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, #ferguson has become a Twitter hashtag used around the world to protest the militarization of American police departments and comment upon the still very real problem of racism in America.
To show how the #ferguson story went around the world, Twitter compiled every geotagged tweet that mentioned Ferguson and compiled them into a single map. What starts out as a relatively localized heatmap centered in Missouri and various other pockets of America escalated over the course of three days to what, in a very different context, might be interpreted as an animation of a global thermonuclear war after Ferguson police officers began tear-gassing and firing rubber bullets at peaceful protesters in the aftermath of the shooting.
Particularly interesting from a national perspective is how the story exploded on August 13, after Ferguson Police arrested the Huffington Post‘s Ryan J. Reilly and the Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery for not leaving a McDonald’s quickly enough. From there, the Twitterverse lights up like a Christmas tree, where as previously much of the commentary was happening only in major metropolitan centers, like Chicago, Washington, and New York.
When will the Ferguson story end? It’s probably too much to hope that it ends with the demilitarization of police departments and a lessening of the endemic racism that seethes underneath the surface of modern American life almost 50 years after the African-American Civil Rights Movement. But hopefully, at the very least, it will end with justice in the murder of Michael Brown being done.
*An earlier version of this article misstated that the officer had not been named. We regret the error.