Crowds grew larger and more diverse as peaceful protesters shut down parts of the city while the investigations into the deaths of two black teenagers killed by police went on with few answers.
“Ferguson October,” a planned weekend of 4-day protests, happened Saturday without the violence, rioting and looting that characterized earlier demonstrations. The families of both Michael Brown and Vonderrit Myers Jr. urged people to keep calm yet pressure authorities on the cases of the two late men. A grand jury is still meeting to determine if the officer who killed Brown will be charged and St. Louis Metropolitan Police are still looking into whether Myers’ shooting was justified.
“We are fighting for our lives,” said Tef Poe, a local rapper and activist. “We are not going home. This is not a fly-by-night.”
Brown, 18, was killed Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. Police say there was a struggle inside the officer’s car and at some point Brown reached for the Wilson’s weapon. However, Brown’s family says the teen was killed as he raised his hands to surrender to Wilson.
Myers’ family said the teen, who was also 18, was unarmed when he was murdered Wednesday by an overzealous officer who racially profiled him in the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis.
However, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson said Myers was shot when he got into a “physical altercation” with an officer. Myers, was allegedly being chased by that officer when the teen turned and “pointed the gun at the officer and fired at least three rounds before his gun jammed,” Dotson said.
Tef Poe spoke at a rally held shortly after some 3,000 people marched in downtown St. Louis. to the city’s famous Arch Saturday. The group was led by an olive pick-up truck carrying young activists, Doug Hollis, who is a cousin of both Brown and Myers and Anthony Shahid, one of the most visible community leaders who has been protesting since Brown’s death.
The boisterous gathering included people from many races who said they were committed to stopping police brutality. A number of speakers told the crowd that America must change the way it treats black and brown people.
Willie Kilpatrick, the Myers’ family’s pastor and spokesperson, insisted to protesters that there is more to Myers’ death than what police have said. “The police don’t always tell the truth,” Kilpatrick said. “Our son was not involved in a shootout with police. The police shot our son dead with one shooter and that was the police.”
For Jessica Caldwell, 30, this weekend’s events are a chance to teach her black son about the importance of protesting and the dangers of racism. She brought, Jayceon Street, 4, to Saturday’s march wearing a black shirt that said “I am Mike Brown.”
“He is a black boy, who will be 18, and who comes from a single household so all the odds are against him,” Caldwell, of St. Louis, said. “The message to him is just because your skin is brown that does not limit your education, your living, who you are or your thinking.”
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SOURCE: USA Today – Yamiche Alcindor