FERGUSON, Mo. — More than 1,000 demonstrators marched and rallied here Sunday, Aug. 9 to mark the first anniversary of the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr. by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. The march, led by Brown’s father, was part of a series of actions that drew participants from across the Midwest and as far away as South Carolina, New York and California. It involved relatives of several victims of police killings who have helped set the tone for a growing nationwide movement to bring killer cops to justice.
That night, following a full day of activities, there was a confrontation between police and protesters. Heavily armed cops became increasingly provocative as the evening wore on. After hundreds of demonstrators had moved out of West Florissant Avenue in response to police orders, cop cars sped down the street and dozens of officers in riot gear formed a skirmish line.
Unrelated gunfire broke out nearby, and police shot and critically wounded 18-year-old Tyrone Harris Jr. Police released a video Aug. 11 they say shows Harris pulling a pistol from his waistband after gunshots were heard nearby.
The next day St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger declared a state of emergency, transferring police powers related to protests to St. Louis County police. Dozens of protesters were arrested during actions Aug. 10 that included sit-ins outside the U.S. Courthouse in St. Louis and blocking evening rush hour traffic on Interstate 70.
On Aug. 11 a group of Caucasian men identifying themselves as members of Oath Keepers, armed with pistols, rifles and body armor, showed up on West Florissant Avenue.
Relatives speak on cop brutalityMarchers assembled Aug. 9 at the memorial to Michael Brown on Canfield Road here. At a rally before the demonstration more than a dozen people spoke, including Michael Brown Sr., father of the youth whose death spurred protests across the country; Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner, killed by police in Staten Island, New York, July 17 last year; and Bree Newsome, who climbed the flag pole in Columbia, South Carolina, and took down the Confederate battle flag days before the state legislature voted to discontinue flying it.
“I first met Mike Brown Sr. last Aug. 11, just two days after his son was killed,” Cephus Johnson, uncle of Oscar Grant, who was killed by Bay Area Rapid Transit cop Johannes Mehserle in 2009, told the crowd. “Since then he has been traveling all around awakening people to action, so that what happened to Mike Brown Jr. should not happen to another human being.
“The Bay Area Black community stood with us,” he said. “But more importantly they used their First Amendment rights to speak out against the injustice and get Mehserle indicted. That’s what communities across the country have to do for all families who lose a loved one to police violence.”
At exactly 11:55 a.m., the time of Brown’s shooting, the rally observed four and a half minutes of silence — one minute for every hour Brown’s body lay in the street after he was killed.
“We came to fight for social justice and show that the labor movement is involved and is part of the Black Lives Matter fight,” said Marcia Gant, a member of Communications Workers of America Local 6355 and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists in St. Louis, who came to the march with a delegation from her local. “Michael Brown’s mother is a grocery store worker and is a member of the UFCW.”
Mark Frank, an education counselor from nearby University City who is Caucasian, told the Militant, “We need to support the Black community in the fight against police brutality. We need to show up and show our outrage. The same kind of stuff happens to whites, but not in the same proportion. It’s wrong and it’s got to stop.”
“The only time they listen is when they see they have something to lose,” Michael Person, a longtime Ferguson resident and member of the CBTU and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1439, told the Militant. “I had not been involved for 10 years. But I couldn’t just sit back and live well myself and watch all this go on around me.”
“We marshall the demonstrations to keep protesters safe from attacks by cops,” said Markese Mull, a leader of Peacekeepers of St. Louis and a longtime friend of the Brown family. “As long as our kids are shot and left laying on the ground, we are going to keep marching until something is done.”
Alyson Kennedy contributed to this article.
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