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Monday, December 01, 2014

Actions in St. Louis MO in solidarity with Ferguson

This is an update from Correspondent Chris Otto, on actions in response to the verdict in the shooting by Officer Darren Wilson, who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in FergusonMO:

     A Trader Joe's store in Brentwood (St. Louis) MO filled up quickly with protesters posing as customers. At noon, many dropped to the floor, and others broke into now familiar chants, "No justice no peace", "Hands up, don't shoot". The "die in" at Trader Joe's was just the beginning for this group Michael Brown protesters. We marched back out and across the parking lot to the Target, which was already closed by police, then shifted to Bed Bath and Beyond next door. After a short protest inside there, the racially diverse crowd, now growing to a couple hundred, marched back out through the parking lot and blocked Eager Road, just north of Interstate I 170. Eager is a main artery in the Brentwood shopping district. Police, who were already there in force, quickly formed a live across from protesters and a police captain issued the warning, via bull horn to leave the street. Protesters with bull horns answered with more chants and statements. Then, like clockwork, the protesters vacated the street, proceeded up the sidewalk on Eager Road and turned right on Hanley Rd, with police shadowing them from the street. When we reached the intersection of Hanley and Musick Memorial Dr, police blocked the sidewalk, trying to halt the march. The protesters rallied there for several minutes before the young leaders of the march asked if anyone would risk arrest "to assert their constitutional right to walk down the sidewalk." A small group gathered at the front, and informed the police they could arrest them if they wanted, but they were crossing the street. In a nervous moment the group stepped forward and the police relented, backing up out of the way. The group then marched to the outdoor dining area of a Buffalo Wild Wings and held another, much larger, "die in".

     This is the untold story of Ferguson and the Michael Brown protests. Although the few nights of rioting have garnered most of the attention from the local and national media, there have been peaceful protests every day since August 9, when 18 year old Michael Brown was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. The Brentwood action Saturday (Nov. 29) was just one of dozens of actions over the course of this weekend, a campaign called "Not one dime" to boycott the Black Friday weekend and make good on protesters promise to "Shut it down" if there was no indictment of Wilson. With different groups of protesters hitting virtually ever major shopping mall in St. Louis, it is clear that this movement, which is about much more than one black teenager being killed by police, isn't going away. 

     I participated in the short lived "Occupy St. Louis" movement that thrived for less than a year, 2010-2011, but that was child's play compared to what we are seeing today.  A powerful coalition of black and white activists has emerged, with young black men and women taking the lead. The leaders of this new civil rights movement have more energy, imagination and discipline than Occupy STL ever had. The goals of the movement include, not only justice for Mike Brown, but and end to racial profiling by police, citizen review boards on all police forces and changes in how police are trained to interact with the public and new use of force policies. These and other proposed reforms have been presented by various arms of this movement, but the news media want to keep the focus on looters and rioters. That may work for a while, but the new civil rights movement isn't going away. 

Chris Otto

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