Thousands Descend on St. Louis for Ferguson October
Protesters come to Ferguson to support local organizers in the aftermath of repeated incidents of police brutality
MEGAN SHERMAN, TRNN PRODUCER: On Saturday, October 11, over 3,000 people marched to Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis in the Justice for All March organized by the Hands Up coalition, which was formed in the wake of the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department. The march is a part of the Ferguson October Weekend, which is a call to bring people from all around the world and across the country to support the local organizers and participate in a series of mass mobilizations, discussions, and acts of civil disobedience.
The demonstrators marched down market Street and were led to the plaza, which stands in alignment with the iconic Gateway Arch and the Jefferson Expansion Memorial, where the historical Dred Scott case was argued in 1856. The case determined that African-Americans, whether enslaved or free, could not be American citizens, and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court.
The local organizers expressed to the crowd how much they appreciated their presence and all of their support.
Individuals representing a number of different organizations came out to participate in the march, as well as to share experiences from their own struggles for justice in their cities.
UNIDENTIFIED: You know what I mean? There’s one rule in power, and power has to be visible.
SHERMAN: Spokespeople from places like Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, and Palestine came to stand in solidarity with the movement.
The representatives from the Michael Brown family spoke to the masses of people in attendance and stress that they are only in support of peaceful demonstrations.
Also in attendance were the parents of 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers, who was gunned down by an off-duty police officer on the south side of St. Louis on Wednesday, October 8. In a press conference held after the shooting, Chief Dotson of the St. Louis Metro Police Department made a statement saying that the officer who shot the teen was working as a security guard for an independent private contractor while still in police uniform. When he came into contact with Myers and a group of young men. The officer reportedly attempted to uperform a pedestrian check, during which time he claims that the young men approached him in an aggressive manner while yielding a firearm. Witnesses provided a conflicting account, claiming that Myers was unarmed when he was tasered and shot multiple times. The SLMPD stated that they will be conducting an ongoing internal investigation on the shooting.
Protesters are comparing this incident to the case involving Michael Brown, who was unarmed when he was killed in early August. Those involved with the ongoing protest in Ferguson, which has spanned over the course of more than 60 days, demonstrated near the area where Myers was killed in the days following his death. A candlelight vigil was held in honor of the teen, after which many of those who were present marched through the surrounding residential community to the commercial area of Grand Boulevard, where they blocked traffic and confronted law enforcement. The first two nights ended with SWAT teams and riot police being deployed while people in the crowd were maced, forced out of the streets, and a number of protesters were arrested.
TONJA, LOCAL ORGANIZER, HANDS UP UNITED: I’ve been out here from [incompr.] one to day one, since the first day Mike Brown get killed. And I’m out here because I have a two-year-old grandson, I have a 17-year-old daughter, I have a 22-year-old daughter, and I have a 19-year-old daughter, and it could have been any one of them. And then, when I was in the streets, I messed some streets up, and I want to clean some up. So that’s why I’m out here. Bottom line, I just want them to change, because they’re not right.
JOHNETTA, LOCAL ORGANIZER: This kind of stuff doesn’t happen on the South Side. The neighborhood where he was killed is actually a pretty diverse neighborhood, lots of white people, lots of foreign people. It’s a cool neighborhood, right? Swanky. And that still didn’t save a young black boy from getting shot and killed.
And so hearing the news that they’ve killed another young black teenager is enough reason for me to get thoroughly involved. So that’s another thing. Making sure people aren’t afraid to hit the streets. That’s what they teach us in American government class in high school. America was founded on a revolution, a protest. That’s the Boston Tea Party. This is a protest.
SHERMAN: On the Friday that kicked off the beginning of Ferguson October, a series of demonstrations took place in Ferguson and St. Louis.
PROTESTERS: [incompr.] Convict! Send that killer cop to jail!
SHERMAN: The first began in the morning at the office of prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch, who was in charge of the investigation of Officer Wilson. Activists are demanding that McCulloch be taken off of the case, as they believe that his bias is in favor of law enforcement, because his father was an officer killed in the line of duty.
One of the more tense marches happened later in the evening, when a large crowd swelled at the Ferguson Police Department, where officers blocked the entrance onto the steps of the station. The protesters eventually traveled to the Shaw neighborhood in St. Louis, where they were met by the SLMPD, who were already dressed in riot gear.
PROTESTER: Why can’t we walk across the bridge? On the sidewalk? Public property. Why? Why?
UNIDENTIFIED: Public property [incompr.]
PROTESTER: Public property? Why?
SHERMAN: Despite quite a bit of tension between law enforcement and the protesters, the night ended peacefully.
One main theme that ran throughout the speeches delivered at the Justice for All March was that the movement that began in Ferguson cannot die in Ferguson.
TEFPOE, LOCAL ORGANIZER AND RAPPER: Even though the news cameras, the glitz, and the glamour has left the city, the foot soldiers, the young people, we have not packed up our bags. We are not going home. We’re not going to go home. This is not a fly-by-night moment. This is not a made-for-TV revolution. This is real people standing up to a real problem and saying, we’re not taking it no more.
SHERMAN: Many of the speakers emphasized how it is necessary for those who were present to continue to support what is happening in Missouri. But it is also necessary for them to organize in their hometowns.
TORRIAN, LOCAL ORGANIZER: The key part to this for me is that we had a very bloody August. We had a rebellious September. And now we’re here. We’ve got to go home. We’ve got to go back to the hoods, the projects, your parish, your town, your city, your borough. And I’m going to do like Stokely Carmichael said: we must organize, organize, and organize.
SHERMAN: The entire nation will be watching as the people who are involved in the protest following Mike Brown’s death continue to work with people across the country and around the world to address what they consider to be an unjust system of policing.
This is Megan Sherman reporting with The Real News Network.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.