Thousands of people marched through downtown St Louis on Saturday, to demand the arrest of the white police officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson two months ago and to condemn racial profiling.
The organisers claimed the protest drew about 3,000 people – far fewer than they had predicted – from across the country as part of a “Weekend of Resistance” against police forces in many parts of the country that are seen to target people of colour in general and young African Americans in particular.
“We’re fighting for our lives,” a St Louis rapper, Tef Poe, told the crowd.
The demonstration was in part prompted by frustration at the slow pace of the grand jury investigation into the actions of Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, 18, six times even though the victim was not armed and witnesses said he had his hands raised. There was little confidence among the protesters that Wilson will be indicted.
The protest was also fuelled by other killings and the use of what critics say is excessive force in several incidents since Brown’s death, includingthe shooting of another 18-year-old African American in St Louis on Wednesday.
Police said Vonderrick Myers Jr fired a gun at an off-duty officer who tried to stop him for what the force called a “pedestrian check”. The killing has prompted its own nightly demonstrations amid accusations that the officer used excessive force in firing 13 bullets, hitting Myers six times. There are also questions about whether he had a legitimate reason to stop and question the victim.
Marchers in Saturday’s mass protest through St Louis carried signs reading “Stop racist police terror” and “We want justice. We want change,” and chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot.” One group carried a giant papier-mâché effigy of Michael Brown with his hands raised.
Some protesters taunted police officers on the route with demands to put “killer cops on trial” but the great bulk of marchers and the police appeared determined to avoid the kind of violence that rocked Ferguson in the wake of Brown’s death.
The St Louis police chief, Sam Dotson, chatted to protesters, telling them he supported their right to demonstrate. He drew attention to the fact that his officers were wearing their normal uniforms, not riot gear. On Friday, Brown’s family called on protesters not to use violence.
Steve Shagwell drove for nine hours from St Paul to attend the protest.
“There’s a personal thing in it,” he said, gesturing at the brace around his neck. “I want to look the police in the eye and say I used to support you but no more.”
Shagwell, 31, said he was suing the St Paul police for injuring him but would not talk about it further because he said the case is the subject of a gag order. He said he would like to see Wilson put on trial for murder, but thought that would not resolve the real problem.
“With enough pressure the law enforcement establishment might offer him up as a sacrificial lamb, although I doubt they’ll even do that. But this march is about more than that. America’s looking at this. That is how we change things. Let them know America is watching.”
The Reverend Dr Jack Sullivan Jr travelled from Greensboro, North Carolina.
“I have been stopped myself by law enforcement as an adult due to racial profiling,” he said. “Without a doubt there are officers with full integrity. But because racism is sown into the fabric of our society there are officers who are responsible for brutality and death of African American men.”
Sullivan said that although he was holding a “Justice 4 Mike Brown, Indict now” sign, the march had a wider purpose.
“It will put officials on notice that we expect them to be held accountable for their actions. Along with that we need for America as a whole to stop acting innocent when it comes to racism,” he said.
“The number of white people on this march is impressive to me. In my history, white people have not been involved in racial justice marches. But we really need the white community in America to come to terms with its racist past and the privilege it has afforded them. First they have to acknowledge that racism is a modern day evil.”
An array of interest groups travelled from as far as Los Angeles, Baltimore, Detroit and Philadelphia. Union leaders marched alongside revolutionary socialist organisations, Latino rights groups and activists demanding an end to the occupation of Palestine.
Aasha Harbec travelled from Kansas City with a group of fast food workers demanding a $15-an-hour minimum wage and union recognition. She works at Taco Bell, earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The 20-year-old, wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “Fast food workers for dignity and justice”, said racial profiling by the police and working conditions were both issues of social justice. But she was also angered that Wilson has not been charged over Brown’s killing.
“It’s like the Trayvon Martin thing. Nothing’s getting done,” she said. “As a person of colour, I know I’m already guilty in the eyes of the police because I’m black.”
The march is one of a number of events scheduled over four days. Late on Friday, protesters gathered outside the Ferguson police station to demand Wilson be put on trial. The Ferguson police were removed from frontline duty and the station was guarded by state troopers and St Louis county officers who initially held back. But officers in riot gear were called in after the demonstrators moved on to the police station grounds.
A noisy standoff ensued, with protesters chanting into the faces of the police, but there was no physical contact and the demonstrators eventually left.
5 thoughts on “Thousands march through St Louis to condemn police shootings of teens”
Gee..I wonder who’s funding this? Another Occupy protest? Are they busing in all the unions, especially the teachers unions?
What’s even crazier is from info I gathered this might be one of the very few times that the cop may not be to blame..yikes if I am correct and I agree with nc
Was Mike Brown NOT surrendering with his hands up when he was shot? I don’t understand how the cop could avoid blame if that were the case.
I’m not saying Mike Brown was an angel… only that no cop should appoint himself judge, jury, and executioner.
This is only being reported because it’s another opportunity to turn this into a racial incident. If it couldn’t be used to inflame racial tensions, you wouldn’t even hear about this protest outside of local papers….. and as NC noted (above)…. who brought these people here?
No one told me about any protest. Funny how they can get 3000 people to show up without widely advertising the event far in advance.
That sweet, innocent and cuddly little boy had just robbed a store, punched the pig in the face so hard that he fractured his eye socket, turned around, thinking he was bullet proof, and was charging at the officer. I cannot say that’s the official sequence of events as I was not there. However, there have been so many conflicting witness statements regarding that shooting it’s hard for anyone to weed through the bullshit and get to the truth. We can all agree he stole the cigars and rough-housed the business owner as the surveillance video showed but what transpired after that has grown enough legs to be a centipede. One witness says he turned around with his hands up, another says he was charging at the officer, another says he was on his way to church to share the donated cigars and be canonized. I believe we can put this one to rest as there are many more incidences of trigger happy cops to discuss than one that involves someone who just committed robbery and felonious assault.