Black teen's death creates twitter rampage

New York - After the killing of an unarmed 18-year-old African-American triggered violent protests in a Missouri community, many took to Twitter to protest the violence and question US media portrayal of black teens as thugs.

Under the hashtag "If They Gunned Me Down", many African-Americans posted contrasting images of themselves on the social media website, one picture depicting them as thugs and another one showing them as peaceful, upstanding citizens, asking which image the media would use.

One Twitter user posted a picture of himself making, what he described as a music-related hand signal and juxtaposed it with a picture of him reading a book to small children, asking "What picture would they use?"

This particular post has been re-tweeted almost 20 000 times.

The social media outrage came after news coverage of the slain teenager, Michael Brown, included a picture taken from his Facebook page that shows him making a peace sign, which some construed as a "gang sign", according to The New York Times.

Other outlets used another picture of a younger Brown, also taken from his Facebook, gazing into the camera while wearing headphones.

An article for The Root, a news and culture website representing African American viewpoints, noted that the pictures of Brown conform to the media portrayal of black teenagers as "violent thugs with gang and drug affiliations".

"You'd be hard-pressed to find mainstream media showing Brown at his high school graduation or with members of his family," the article said. "Ironically, all of those photos exist courtesy of Brown's Facebook page."

The killing of Brown on Saturday in a suburb outside St Louis, Missouri, triggered violent protests overnight Sunday. Thirty-two people were arrested, and 12 shops were looted.

St Louis County police chief Jon Belmar said the shooting occurred after an officer was attacked during an encounter involving Brown and another person.