Reflections on Ferguson

Below are excerpts from an article by Lou DeJesus of Buffalo, N.Y., about her trip to St. Louis and Ferguson, Mo., on Oct. 11-12. This African-American activist traveled there to join the struggle for “Justice for Michael Brown,” killed by police on Aug. 9. The full article is at

We arrived in St. Louis early on Oct. 11, the day of the community march and rally. We headed to the march location, where easily a few hundred were already gathered. We stationed ourselves in sight of a giant “Hands Up Mike Brown” puppet. …

We were among thousands, multiple marching bands, exuberant youth, babies being pushed in strollers, signs declaring solidarity from Vermont, Chicago, HBCUs [historically Black colleges and universities], communists, socialists, Jobs With Justice, too many organizations to count. The chants, call-and-responses, drumming, singing were tremendous. …

We had a chance to see the beauty of the city … an extravagant display of attractions — while unemployment among people of color, especially youth, remains at shocking levels.

Directly across from the Ferguson Police Station, we met 72-year-old Walter Rice, a Vietnam veteran and resident for more than 40 years. Mr. Rice has stationed himself here for days, with a lawn chair and poster, quietly protesting. From him, we learned about the history of this city, first next to and now engulfing most of the first incorporated Black city in Missouri, Kinloch. Free Blacks had lived here for generations after settling during the great American westward expansion. …

He talked about conversations with the mayor after the brutal murder of Michael Brown, watching the increased militarization and aggressiveness of Ferguson and St. Louis police. He told us about literally placing his body between tanks and young protesters of color … asking [police] how they could respond to legitimate protest with such brutality. He wept constantly as he spoke … with quiet tears that rolled down his brown cheeks. We hugged … and agreed that there is a time to grieve and a time to fight back.

The fierce protective reverence for the memorial itself has to be noted. Down the middle of the street is a row of candles, mementos … ordered carefully. I added a locket and ribbon, a gift from my deceased fiance, a fellow sojourner added a rock from Lake Erie … her personal talisman.

We were humbled to offer these tokens in an effort to show our love and respect for Michael, his family, his friends and his community. They have offered themselves up … for over 70 long days and nights, by the hundreds, to police violence and national scrutiny, to demand that racist police killings stop here and now.

‘We’re marching all night long!’

We had the honor of taking part in the nightly march from Canfield to the Ferguson police station. Hundreds marched, and hundreds more rode behind, honking and chanting. Neighbors … came out on their lawns to dance, clap and chant. …

We arrived in front of the Ferguson Police Station to find 400 plus people chanting, “We’re young, we’re strong, we’re marching all night long!” and “Hands up, don’t shoot!” We were asked to sit in the street and rose to a moment of silence. The chanting went on for nearly two hours.

The larger mass was directly confronting row upon row of police officers in full riot gear (complete with a tank), shouting that they were not there to protect and serve, not a part of this community. … Officers stood unmoving. … Scores of other officers were quietly blocking off Ferguson’s streets, forming the cage of blue that would later force the breakaway marchers into stopping at the QuikStop, where a peaceful sit-in would result in 19 arrests.

Two of my comrades had been arrested during that sit-in. Fueled by Twitter … we learned about a night of kettling, pepper spray, batons, abuse, confrontation and resistance. We … hit up Twitter to get supporters calling the police station demanding answers. …

How proud I am to have stood shoulder to shoulder with Black and Brown people that know firsthand the brutality of the racist policing system. They know that the cameras won’t roll forever, and that … they will be a community among too many facing violence that will never make the headline news — and have chosen to face the beast head on.

White comrades and supporters are accepting the challenge to fight racism, taking to the streets of their hometowns, declaring … “Not to act is to act.”

The protests in Ferguson show it is literally true that the power of the people doesn’t stop. The people of Ferguson and freedom fighters all across the country and the globe have … said “Not one more!” not without a fight. …

This moment … is decisive; masses of people whose strongest qualification is determination have proudly chosen to dedicate themselves … to the fight against racism. More and more Black and Brown people, in numbers growing daily, are dead serious that until there is justice there will be no peace.

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