By Simone Hawthorne
Edward Crawford, the Ferguson protestor immortalized in the famous photograph of him throwing a flaming tear gas container donned in the American flag, was found dead in his car last Thursday of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the end.
Crawford took great pride in being the man depicted in the photograph. Even while his image is idealized, as the embodiment of the movement, fighting fire with fire, Crawford contended that his actions weren’t offensive but defensive. In an interview, Crawford revealed:
“Before the photo was taken, the canister… was shot and it landed a couple of feet away from me and some children… I was merely getting the canister away from me and the kids…”
In so revealing, the heroism of Crawford’s action isn’t minimized. Instead, it’s even further self-sacrificing, endangering himself in order to save others.
While the police are treating it as a suicide, he is not the first activist from Ferguson to be found dead under seemingly similar questionable circumstances. Back in November 2014, the same evening it was announced that Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for the murder of Mike Brown, 20 year old DeAndre Joshua’s body was found with a gunshot wound to the head and burned in his car. While never confirmed, rumors had made their way that Joshua had been one of the secret witnesses in Wilson’s grand jury trial. While these rumors were never confirmed, it was a fact that he was a good friend of Dorian Johnson, who was with Mike Brown when he was murdered.
Similarly, prominent Ferguson and Black Lives Matter activist Darren Seals was found dead in a burning car with a gunshot wound to the head. Seals was known for his outspoken community activism, never afraid to speak up and say the things many would shy away from.
While no clear evidence directly links the three deaths, it seems almost too coincidental that all three men were left for dead in similar fashions. Crawford’s father contends that his son had been in good spirits lately, was the father of 4, and was training for a new job and ready to move into a new apartment. He sees no reason why his son would elect take his own life. And while the coroner has not released an official cause of death, the police are treating it as a suicide.
But if it was not, if these deaths are not mere coincidence, then there is an attack on the activists of Ferguson, MO. Ultimately, it seems as if it’s an attack on those who provide a voice and face to a movement that attempts to combat the oppressive systems that are in place. If that is indeed what is happening, then one misstep has been taken. Images are often stronger than words. Crawford’s image, an American, protecting his people from an oppressive system, is one that will continue to represent a movement deeper than just one man and far outreaching the depths to which the oppressor is willing to dive. R.I.P. to Edward Crawford, an icon of a movement. Your image, your stance, your symbol lives on.