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Day of Resistance: ‘Ferguson October’ Makes St. Louis Feel Presence of Growing Movement Against Police Violence

By the time the day of resistance was over on October 14, there had been at least seventy-six arrested during somewhere around five to ten separate nonviolent actions to call attention to the national problem of police violence against African-Americans and the need for racial justice in the United States.

It was all a part of “Ferguson October,” which was organized by activists aiming to transform a moment of protest against white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson who killed the unarmed black teenager Mike Brown into a movement. Activists also brought attention to the death of Vonderritt Myers Jr., who was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer working a security job days before the “weekend of resistance.”

The morning began with a civil disobedience action by clergy, which had been advertised as a “Moral Monday” action, like other actions by faith leaders which have taken place in other states (particularly North Carolina). They marched to the Ferguson Police Station. Someone drew a chalk outline in the station parking lot of Brown’s body and placed candles in it. The group then attempted to get through the police line while singing famous civil rights movement songs. At least twenty-five people were arrested.

Emerson Electric was targeted by a coalition of labor and community activists, who blocked the street. They demanded that the company pay more attention to issues of “economic justice” in Ferguson by promoting “fair employment” and contributing to the “well-being” of the community. Some of the organizers were with Show Me $15, which is a national SEIU campaign for a $15 minimum wage in cities across America. Twenty people were arrested while standing in the street and were not on Emerson Electric property.

Kennard Williams, a young African-American activist, led a group of young people with Youth Activists United to St. Louis City Hall. The march paid city hall a visit because the people who “have the power to make things change” were there.

A number of the activists who marched made it inside city hall where they were able to unfurl banners on the steps that read, “Be Accountable or Be Gone,” and, “We Are the People, We Have the Power.” They issued a set of demands that included body cameras being worn by all police, a civilian police review board, removal of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department from the Pentagon’s program for obtaining military equipment and independent investigations of all police shootings that have ended in fatalities.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay did not accept the demands from protesters but a chief of staff named Jeff Rainford did. He later grumbled to media, “If we do this yelling at each other and through emotion, and getting mad at each other and talking past each other, we’ll never get to where we need to be.” And also said “things take time and input from several parties, not just protesters,” according to a local news report. (In other words, stop making so much racket, kids, and let the adults handle the decision-making.)

At the St. Louis Rams-San Francisco 49ers game last night, a group in the upper deck of Edward Jones Stadium unfurled multiple banners that altogether read, “Rams Fans Know On and Off the Field Black Lives Matter.” Another banner, “Racism Lives Here,” was also held up by people. While this happened, there was a rally outside the stadium of around sixty people. One white woman aggressively yelled at protesters, “You don’t know shit!” and,  “You have nothing for him. What are you doing? You making his mommy and daddy proud?” Police surrounded her but did not immediately place her under arrest.

According to St. Louis Public Radio, a Monday night fundraiser for the Democratic nominee for St. Louis County Executive, Steve Stenger, was targeted by a civil disobedience action. Senator Claire McCaskill and other top Democrats in the state were in attendance.

Seventy-five protesters demonstrated at the event. A few people blocked the entrance to the fundraiser before police in riot gear arrested them. At least two or three people made it inside the fundraiser and one attempted to confront Stenger before being “wrestled” to the ground.

Six Walmart locations in the St. Louis area were the scenes of protest. The direct action intended to shut down shopping at the Walmarts was organized to make a link between a young African-American man named John Crawford, who was killed by police in a Beavercreek, Ohio Walmart on August 6 and Mike Brown.”

St. Louis rapper and local activist Tef Poe led a march down the aisle at one Walmart while carrying a banner that read, “Toy Guns Don’t Kill, RIP John Crawford,” a reference to the fact that Crawford was holding an air rifle from the store when police killed him. Poe was arrested, along with at least five others, at the Maplewood location.

There was a demonstration at the Plaza Frontenac, an upper class mall in west St. Louis County. One young African-American described how he snuck into the mall because he knew he would be spotted by security immediately. He asked a store for an application and pretended to argue on his phone with an old boss about a job reference. When he saw others had made it inside, they started a call and response action before everyone was promptly escorted out of the building by security.

Before the night ended, a group of protesters showed up at another QuikTrip location before police dispersed them and then at the Hollywood Casino.

Organizers appear to have been largely successful, making the city—and county—feel the presence of people, that there needs to be change or else people are not going away. There will continue to be resistance in the streets.

In fact, the actions over the past months have forced underlying prejudice out into the open by making white residents feel uncomfortable. One white Ferguson resident, Brian Fletcher, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I think quite frankly, Caucasians are intimidated by protesters who think that if they can make Caucasians feel uncomfortable, they can change the rules. And it’s working.”

Community residents are tired of the protests, but that seems to be because privilege and insulation from the realities of black life prior to Brown’s death have been pierced by the cries of people in Ferguson demanding dignity and justice. The protests would begin to taper off if Wilson was arrested, like most people who kill other humans are typically arrested. The community would no longer be such a hub of resistance if police did not act so aggressively and there was accountability for brutality by officers.

Until St. Louis becomes a place where all lives matter, this movement will continue to mature and grow. It will not stop because residents are “weary” of protest. There is work to be done, to those who are organizing. And it is very clear after “Ferguson October” they are going to keep fighting until they achieve many of their most reasonable demands.

CommunityFDL Main Blog

Day of Resistance: ‘Ferguson October’ Makes St. Louis Feel Presence of Growing Movement Against Police Violence

By the time the day of resistance was over on October 14, there had been at least seventy-six arrested during somewhere around five to ten separate nonviolent actions to call attention to the national problem of police violence against African-Americans and the need for racial justice in the United States.

It was all a part of “Ferguson October,” which was organized by activists aiming to transform a moment of protest against white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson who killed the unarmed black teenager Mike Brown into a movement. Activists also brought attention to the death of Vonderritt Myers Jr., who was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer working a security job days before the “weekend of resistance.”

The morning began with a civil disobedience action by clergy, which had been advertised as a “Moral Monday” action, like other actions by faith leaders which have taken place in other states (particularly North Carolina). They marched to the Ferguson Police Station. Someone drew a chalk outline in the station parking lot of Brown’s body and placed candles in it. The group then attempted to get through the police line while singing famous civil rights movement songs. At least twenty-five people were arrested.

Emerson Electric was targeted by a coalition of labor and community activists, who blocked the street. They demanded that the company pay more attention to issues of “economic justice” in Ferguson by promoting “fair employment” and contributing to the “well-being” of the community. Some of the organizers were with Show Me $15, which is a national SEIU campaign for a $15 minimum wage in cities across America. Twenty people were arrested while standing in the street and were not on Emerson Electric property.

Kennard Williams, a young African-American activist, led a group of young people with Youth Activists United to St. Louis City Hall. The march paid city hall a visit because the people who “have the power to make things change” were there.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."

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