Missouri Highway Patrol personnel acknowledged on Wednesday that officers wore rubber bracelets declaring “I am Darren Wilson” to a protest in the racially divided city of Ferguson on Tuesday night.
Buzzfeed reported that Capt. Ron Johnson confirmed at a press conference that an Instagram post by user MediaBlackoutUSA is real and that the officers in question wore the bracelets as and “individual statement” of solidarity with the white Ferguson Police Department officer who gunned down unarmed black teen Michael Brown in August.
“I think that was not a statement of law enforcement,” Johnson said. “I think wearing that was an individual statement” by law enforcement officers.
Wilson has become something of a folk hero to some hardline conservatives. A fund dedicated to defraying his legal expenses raised more than $197,000 before it was suspended for possible legal issues.
It is unclear whether the Fraternal Order of Police union, which runs the charity that raised the money, is legally allowed to solicit money for officers’ legal defense.
Wilson has stayed out of the public eye since he shot Michael Brown to death after a scuffle arising from Brown’s failure to get out of the roadway fast enough on the afternoon of Aug. 9. Witnesses say that Brown had his hands in the air and was attempting to surrender when he was struck in the head by a bullet from Wilson’s gun, killing him.
The Tuesday night protest in Ferguson revolved around a fire that consumed a monument to Brown on Sep. 23, although it is unclear whether the monument burned due to arson or an unattended candle.