The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Missouri police shooting draws protesters from near and far, highlights larger frustrations

  • Print

FERGUSON, Mo. - Protesters who have for days lined a busy suburban St. Louis street not far from the place where a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager have walked from nearby apartments, driven from neighbouring communities and flown in from states hundreds of miles away. Some are young parents carrying infants. Others, college students. Retirees. Professionals taking a break from their jobs.

They have chanted, marched, shouted, danced on vehicles and — though most have remained peaceful — also looted and vandalized stores during late-night clashes with armoured police who have fired smoke canisters and tear gas into the crowds.

The demonstrators are demanding justice for 18-year-old Michael Brown, which they say can only be accomplished if Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson is charged and convicted for the shooting. Many also cite larger causes.

Some vent frustration about what they describe as a pattern of harassment and intimidation of black residents by police — not just in Ferguson, but in numerous other predominantly low-income minority communities. Others see an opportunity to participate in what they consider a modern civil rights movement.

"Being black in America is basically being born with a target," said Keyon Watkins, a 26-year-old college graduate with a computer science degree who joined in protest on a late weekend night. "All of this is just built-up, pent-up aggression by being mistreated on a daily basis."

As Watkins stood on the curb of West Florissant Avenue, a parade of vehicles slowly passed by — some with teenagers dancing atop the hoods, some blaring music profaning police, many honking their horns in what has become a sounding call for the protest.

On another night, the rap musician Stackz drove up in a new white Corvette, parked it in the street and joined in the protest. Though he now lives in Atlanta, he grew up in the neighbourhood.

"This happened right in my area. It was a must to be here," said Stackz, who said his real name was Demarco Williams.

Brown had been walking with a friend down nearby Canfield Drive when officer Wilson told them to get out of the street. They kept walking. Police say a scuffle ensued, Wilson was injured and Brown was shot. Witnesses say the teenager had his hands in the air — a sign of surrender — as Wilson fired multiple rounds.

So the protesters chant "Hands up! Don't shoot!" while raising their own arms. They write the words on posters, and print them on T-shirts.

Some of the protesters said they already had been shot by police, or know relatives and friends who had been. Michael Johnson, 42, lifted up his shirt to show the scars on his torso that he said he received when he was shot by a St. Louis police officer at age 18. Because of the injuries, he had to abandon his dream of joining the Marines.

"That one night cost me my whole future," said Johnson, standing in front of a looted and burnt-out convenience store. "If I got to die tonight, I don't mind ... I'm dying for a cause."

There have been no reports of protesters dying in their clashes with police.

After several tumultuous nights, police tried to change their tactics. State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson took command of security from local authorities and walked the streets side-by-side with the protesters. So did celebrity civil rights activists, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who had marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The festive atmosphere lasted only one night, and protests again turned violent during the weekend, prompting Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to declare a state of emergency and impose a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew in Ferguson. Some who defied the curfew clashed again with police early Sunday, but Johnson again encouraged peaceful demonstrations for the nights to come.

LaVon Stennis-Williams flew in from Omaha, Nebraska, to join the protest with her daughter who is attending law school at Saint Louis University. Stennis-Williams, 52, wanted to personally experience the civil rights movement that she had heard about as a child in the 1960s.

"I felt like it was an obligation to come here and be a part of this," she said. "Maybe this will be a catalyst of change in this country to get people to become more tolerant and more respectful of their civil rights."

___

Follow David A. Lieb at: https://twitter.com/DavidALieb

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Gary Lawless & Ed Tait try not to bleeping cry over the woesome Jets

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Winnipeg’s best friend the dragon fly takes a break at English Gardens in Assiniboine Park Wednesday- A dragon fly can eat  food equal to its own weight in 30 minutes-Standup photo- June 13, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Gardening Column- Assiniboine Park English Garden. July 19, 2002.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should Premier Greg Selinger resign?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google