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Pumpkin Riot, Ferguson & the White Privilege to Turn Down for Whatever

Protesters approached the St. Louis County Justice Center while holding pumpkins marked “racism,” “police brutality” and “white privilege.” They planned to smash the pumpkins in front of the police station to make a point about the disparity in media coverage of primarily white college students rioting in Keene, New Hampshire, and media coverage of reaction in Ferguson, Missouri, to white police officer Darren Wilson who killed an unarmed black teenager named Mike Brown.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that protest organizer Derek Laney was arrested “after he held the pumpkin” over his head and “decried the shooting” of Brown before smashing the pumpkin “at the feet of officers stationed about 10 feet from the Justice Center door.” He protested the fact that Keene State College students were called “unruly” or “drunken revelers” and accused of merely “causing a ruckus” while community residents upset in Ferguson were labeled “rioters” or “thugs.”

Altogether, there were three people arrested. Police charged protesters with littering offenses and an assault offense. Even though the pumpkin never left one woman’s hands, it was taken away from her, and she was charged with conspiring to litter.

It did not take long for people to mock what happened on Saturday, October 18. When the images of violence and chaos perpetrated by both students and police at Keene State College and in the midst of the annual Pumpkin Festival were first shared, individuals who had followed what happened in Ferguson closely immediately made a connection. (I joked, “How many of the defiant white youth causing mayhem & destruction come from fatherless families?”)

Laughs were had, but people on the ground in Ferguson were generally outraged and stunned by the sickening display of white privilege.

As a local newspaper, The Keene Sentinel, reported:

“It’s (expletive) wicked,” said Steven French, an 18-year-old who was said he was visiting from Haverhill, Mass.

It’s just like a rush. You’re revolting from the cops,” he said, sometime after 9 p.m. “It’s a blast to do things that you’re not supposed to do.”

French stood on the sidelines of a group hundreds of people strong on Winchester Street. The young people shouted expletives — many of them directed at police — started fires on the roadway, and pulled down a street sign before slamming it on the pavement, to the roars of the crowd. [emphasis added]

Deray McKesson, who curates a Ferguson Protestor newsletter, reacted, “We protest to protect the right to be black and alive,” and what happened in Keene was as “offensive as Darren Wilson’s freedom.” [Wilson has yet to be arrested or indicted.]

“I don’t even need to tweet what would happen to black people if they dared to riot like #PumpkinFest folks,” activist Kim Moore tweeted. Joshua Bennett, an African-American writer based in New York, said, “I don’t know what to say to someone who thinks it’s ‘fun’ to fight cops. We don’t live in the same world.”

If you do not understand this reaction, take a moment to watch this video:

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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."