On this week’s episode of Scandal, art imitated life as Olivia Pope and her team found themselves in the middle of the Rosemead neighborhood—just blocks away from the White House, where an African American teenager named Brandon Parker had been gunned down by a police officer. The storyline closely mirrored the real life murder of Ferguson, MO teen Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in August 2014.
Here are five striking similarities between tonight’s Scandal episode and Ferguson.
1. Brandon was left laying facedown in the street.
Tonight’s Scandal included the young man’s father, Clarence, played by Courtney B. Vance, toting a shot gun and arriving at the site where his son was gunned down, and finding his son laying facedown in the middle of the street. The grieving father ultimately sets a chair over his son and sits down, waiting to find out which cop is responsible for his son’s death.
One of the key and most heart wrenching details in Michael Brown’s shooting was the fact that law enforcement allowed him to remain laying in the street where he was shot for more than four hours.
2. The police officer who shot Brandon said he feared for his life.
Olivia Pope questions Officer Newton, the DCPD officer who shot Brandon Parker, to try to better understand what led to the fatal encounter. Officer Newton details how he was responding to a robbery of a cell phone, and that he was told the suspect was an African American male, medium build, around 20 years old. He said that when he approached Brandon he saw that he had a brand new cell phone, still in its box, in his hand. He said Brandon became hostile and “reached for a knife” and that’s when he shot him, because he feared for his own safety. Olivia find a pocket knife under Brandon’s body, but it is later revealed that the knife was planted there and that Brandon was actually reaching for his receipt to prove he had paid for the cell phone.
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson said that he also feared for his life when he confronted Michael Brown, alleging that Brown became violent and assaulted him and that he had no choice but to use deadly force. However, there was no evidence that Brown posed a lethal threat to Wilson, and Wilson’s injuries did not indicate that he had suffered any significant trauma during his scuffle with the slain teen.
3. The community came out in full force to rally around Clarence Parker after Brandon was shot.
Clarence and Brandon Parker’s neighbors were front and center throughout the episode, vigilantly keeping eye on the police officers at the scene and demanding justice for the young man and his heartbroken father. The crowd chanted, “Stand up! Fight back! No more black boys under attack!” during a crucial scene where the police chief, who was the one who had called Olivia in, instructed his officers to don their riot gear.
In Ferguson, thousands of activists have gathered since last August to not only protest Michael Brown’s shooting, but to call attention to the ongoing violence enacted by law enforcement against African Americans. “Hands up, don’t shoot!” became the signature phrase for protestors in Ferguson and all across the globe, as both Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson and Eric Garner’s choke-hold death at the hands of Staten Island, NY cops sparked the ongoing #BlackLivesMatter movement.
4. Fitz expresses sincere concern for Brandon Parker, but is not able to issue a statement. The justice department, however, takes up the case.
One slight difference between the fictional story carried out on Scandal and the real life incident in Ferguson is the reaction of the president. While we see that Fitz is clearly concerned about the shooting and what is happening with the citizens in Rosemead, Cyrus advises him not to make a statement, as it may undermine local law enforcement’s work. Abby gets creamed at a press conference following the shooting when she insists that the incident is a local issue and not something the White House can or will comment on. Olivia enlists David Rosen, the Attorney General, who launches an investigation.
President Obama issued a statement just days after Michael Brown’s shooting, expressing his and Mrs. Obama’s condolences and vowing that the Department of Justice will fully investigate the incident. The US DOJ formally closed its investigation into the Michael Brown shooting this week, with no charges filed against Darren Wilson.
5. Olivia accuses the police chief of shutting the press down.
As the situation escalates in the wake of Brandon’s shooting, Olivia and her team work to find the surveillance footage from the day the shooting took place. That’s when they discover that it appears that the police department has been limiting the press’ access to the scene. Olivia confronts the police chief, who admits that he wants to separate the press from the protestors.
In Ferguson, both professional and citizen journalists who have flocked to the city in the months following Michael Brown’s murder have been questioned, arrested, and detained by police officers. Early on during the demonstrations in Ferguson, numerous members of the press found themselves being forced out of the area where the protests were taking place and being threatened with police action.