The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 78/No. 36      October 13, 2014

Opponents of cop brutality
keep up protests in Ferguson
FERGUSON, Mo. — The Aug. 9 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in this largely African-American working-class suburb north of St. Louis sparked an outpouring of protest that continues more than a month after his shooting.

Street actions erupted Sept. 25 when a fire burned down one of two memorials to Brown. “When I got there, around 200 people were there,” Markese Mull, a member of The Mighty 13, a group of residents of the Canfield Green apartments that has sprung up in the wake of Brown’s shooting, told the Militant. “Most of us think the fire was set intentionally. Most importantly, the memorial has been rebuilt.”

The same day, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson issued a public relations video apologizing to Brown’s parents. “No one who has not experienced the loss of a child can understand what you’re feeling,” Jackson said. “I’m truly sorry for the loss of your son.”

“Chief Jackson’s apology to the Browns and the St. Louis community shouldn’t be in the form of a scripted video,” St. Louis Alderman Antonio French responded on Twitter, “but in a resignation letter.”

The next day more than a dozen cops tore down a camp where a group of youth calling themselves LostVoices14 have been staying since Brown’s killing. “They came in grabbing our stuff and yelling at us,” Ned Alexander, 25, from Ferguson, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Department of Justice released a letter Sept. 26 sent to the police chief, urging him to prohibit Ferguson police officers from wearing “I am Darren Wilson” bracelets while on duty.

Protesters are demanding the arrest and prosecution of Wilson, as well as the removal of St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch from the case and the appointment of a special prosecutor. They also have targeted the widespread use of traffic citations, buttressed with exorbitant fines and administrative fees that hit working people the hardest, disproportionately those who are African-American, often leaving them hundreds of dollars in debt and subject to imprisonment. Court fines are Ferguson’s second-highest source of income.

“I just did a week in jail for that,” said Rodney Martin, a worker at Home Depot who was visiting the memorial. “They kept me locked up for 72 hours in the first municipality. They came and said I’d only be there for 24 hours maximum, then they changed it to 48, then again to 72. And after that I went to the next town jail and then the next one.”

Two Ferguson City Council meetings since the killing have been packed. The first was Sept. 9, with 600 people crammed into the Greater Grace Church.

“I spoke at that meeting,” Mull told the Militant. “The day before the newspaper announced that the council was going to propose some changes in policing and the traffic ticket situation. But they didn’t propose anything real.”

Before the meeting, Brown’s parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., led a march to the Ferguson police station demanding Wilson’s arrest.

One hundred twenty people came to the next meeting Sept. 23, where some traffic fines and fees were lowered. Some at the meeting came to complain about the demonstrators. “How many times do I have to go through this civil rights thing,” Larry Weber, an older area resident, said, to gasps from the majority of the crowd.

People visit the memorial to Brown at 2900 Canfield Drive daily. It is guarded by residents of the Canfield Green Apartments, among them David Whitt, and a group he organizes called Canfield Watchmen.

“People from all over the country have been coming here to learn more about what happened and show their support for us,” Whitt, who had just returned from participating in a panel at the National Lawyers Guild Convention in Chicago, told the Militant.

“There are about a dozen of us and we take shifts around the clock. We educate our neighbors about their rights,” he said. “We have cameras and record any encounters with the police. That helps make sure the police don’t violate our rights.”  
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