Five Days of Protest
By: Ashley Jones
As of June 4th, I have reported on and attended every protest since Thursday, May 28. As a young African American on the front lines, covering and participating in the St. Louis protests have given me the opportunity to highlight the demands, ideals and messages from activists fighting for social justice.
My mission is to make sure the story of organizers, leaders, and other protesters are heard. This essay is to share my personal experience from inside the crowd and demonstrations and from interviews I have had with protest leaders.
The impact of these nonviolent gatherings and how they differ from civil disobedient gatherings that go on into the night time. As the night grows darker, the actions and activists change.
There is a Martin Luther King, Jr. essence at protests that’s evident in the faith leaders holding the megaphones and a Malcolm X essence that a younger generation is leading.
The March on Washington was nonviolently led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and other organizers. The marchers were peaceful. Similar to that of what I see today in Rev. Darryl Gray of Expect Us.
Then you have a younger group in St. Louis who are more prepared and have demands to bring to government just as Expect Us does. They are coming prepared to defend themselves during their nonviolent protests.
Things escalate as the night grows darker and another group rises to cause destruction. This group does not exclude informants or left wing infiltrators.
“No protests in the City of St. Louis last night, similar amount of property damage as what has followed protests,” Chris King said. “That says it all.” https://twitter.com/chriskingstl/status/1268187039087964160
The FBI is seeking information on individuals inciting violence during First Amendment-protected peaceful demonstrations according to the FBI’s website. The FBI created a new form that enables the public to upload information, pictures or videos of unlawful violent actions.
The government is charging people with rioting for making Facebook posts or attending protests. Link Mike Avery and Antoine White.
DEA can now secretly surveil George Floyd protesters according to BuzzFeed News. King was under surveillance. X was under surveillance. Huey Newton was under surveillance. This is nothing new. All 50 states have protested. People all over the world are protesting at U.S. embassies.
St. Louis Metropolitan St. Louis MPD
Clara Holmes is a community leader and organizer alongside Bishop Derrick Robinson who led a nonviolent protest on Thursday, May 28. Tory Russell also hosted a press conference that same day in the same area. Not before long, the two groups joined in solidarity walking all around downtown St. Louis.
The march ended at St. Louis City Police Station with around 15 protestors having a civil conversation with Officer Jemmison. (Link my article)
The next day, Friday, May 29th me and my two friends marched for over 7 hours. Hundreds of protestors gathered again at the St. Louis City Police Station. We blocked intersections with a few police cars blocking off the traffic ahead of us and trailing behind us.
Near the middle of Friday’s protest I asked Reverend Darryl Gray for his information regarding a follow-up interview. Both of our phones were on 1% and we still managed to add each other on FaceBook. I shared the protest’s Facebook live.
Around 10 p.m. Robinson announced the end of their official protest and a leaderless crowd of organized city protests continued blocking intersections. A few familiar leaders from Ferguson protests in 2015 were at the front lines.
We approached Interstate 70 and the vehicles that were supportive of the black lives matter movement strategically led us onto the highway where we blocked traffic for 3 hours. In the beginning, we had police blocking off the highway yards ahead of us and behind us.
Things really began to escalate when an empty Amazon car drove by and some people peeked inside to find nothing. That was when me and my friends left.
Subsequently, a FedEx truck arrived and shortly after a man’s body was dragged until he passed away. Shortly after a body was identified, police cars rushed to the scene and shots were fired.
On Saturday, May 30th
The NAARPR and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists held a nonviolent rally. The group touched on how black lives are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and the fact that what’s happening now is nothing new. We are in need of systemic change.
The group supported protestors in Clayton after their nonviolent rally.
All 50 states have protested and all colors of the rainbow participate carrying signs. When police equip their riot gear, protestors call on their white allies to move their bodies to the front. Clayton was a nonviolent rally led by ExpectUs and Bishop Robinson. There was civil disobedience as we trudged to Delmar Loop.
Right after Clayton, on Saturday, protestors gathered at Ferguson Police Department until the chief and other black officers walked out and began to lead demonstrators down the street. They made it past the downtown area.
Bishop Robinson then pulled out his megaphone and apologized for being late. The crowd began to split or divide from the police officers. I walked up to Bishop and told him that the protestors were following the police.
“I know,” Robinson said. “We don’t follow the police. If anything they follow us. We’re fighting their system of equality and modern day lynching.”
The crowd turned around and headed back to the police department. After chanting, drums and walking back and forth from the street to the station we stayed gathered at steps of the police department. Robinson, Gray and others led kneeling with police whilst others shared different views. There were people who were tired of kneeling.
“We’ve tried that shit before and it didn’t work.”
My friends and I were sitting in the parking lot until we moved back out to the street. We chanted and I paced. Rumors were circulating that S.W.A.T. was on their way.
Before leaving, Bishop told everyone to follow their organization on social media and Kenny took center stage. The young leader is well known as an artist, substitute teacher and local activist. Kenny told the “scary people” to leave now if they were not prepared for the civil disobedient actions that would take place.
After a few more motivational words, Kenny announced that this was a leaderless protest and allotted time for anyone who desired to stand on the electrical box and speak their truth.
Kenny encourages the younger generation to prepare themselves for when nonviolent civilly disobedient demonstrations begin to escalate.
All of a sudden the police weren’t kneeling anymore. Just by standing in the police department parking lot, before any water bottles were thrown, before firecrackers rang through the building and streets, the police put on their riot gear.
I stood back. My friend from college who is a pre-med student stayed and treated people hit with tear gas. My other friend got lost amongst the frontline protestors. He was safe when we reconvened later. We all left not long after I sat across the street from the looted hair store, waiting for my phone to turn back on.
According to the police department’s media advisory, from approximately 10:15 PM on Saturday, May 30th, to approximately 1:30 AM on Sunday, May 31st, in the 200 block of South Florissant Road in Ferguson, Missouri Seven officers were injured by being hit with rocks, bottles, and fireworks. Three were transported to local hospitals with non-life threatening injuries, while the other four were treated on scene. At least eleven police and fire vehicles sustained damage. One was attributable to a projectile (bullet) and the rest to rocks and other debris being thrown.
Numerous businesses in the area were damaged or displayed signs of forced entry/attempted forced entry. This includes the Ferguson Police Department’s facility, located at 222 South Florissant Road in Ferguson, Missouri. A significant amount of gunfire was present throughout the night in the immediate area and the vicinity. –Sergeant Benjamin Granda
S.W.A.T. came at the end of the night when things were coming to an end. I was scared for nothing. The people won that fight.
Sunday, May 31st
My friend and I had never been to Richmond Heights before. We heard there was a protest for a police related death that occurred four years ago. By the time we got there no one was in sight. In our scarves, we drove past two tanks. Well, on to Ferguson it was then.
We pulled up to a pizzeria parking lot down the street from the action. By the time we got there the police had moved protestors a few blocks down from the station. They were throwing tear gas at protestors who were chanting, popping fireworks and out after curfew. The police announced that we were an unlawful gathering.
Activists were acting on their first amendment right and stayed their ground. At every protest there were people handing out masks, snacks and milk. My backpack was filled with water and baking soda. The police were trying to box us in and corner us with their riot gear.
A canister slid across my feet and I hopped over it. Not long after his pattern of facing the police a leading activist from Ferguson 2015 came and redirected everyone toward an intersection to block off traffic.
“We don’t follow the police,” He shouted. “This is our protest. The police don’t lead shit.”
Similar message as Robinson, but different group. One family, one voice.
Together, activists brought down a street sign and occupied the streets. We left as police cars began to crowd and block my friend’s car.
Monday, June 1st
Expect Us protest held another protest, this time outside of the Social Justice Center. We marched to the Arch. After making a circle around the national monument, leaders of Expect Us hosted a privilege walk. People were asked to step up if anyone they know has been hurt by the police. Others were asked to step up if anyone in their family was racist.
Organizers then asked the marchers to put their demands to the government or things they would like to see change on a sticky note. They posted their notes on the Arch and marched onto the highway.
After the Expect Us function ended, leaders asked protestors to go back to their cars. I followed Clara Holmes to the middle of a circle in the middle of the street. She and Kenny were motivating a younger generation to not give up and not let the movement fizzle out.
We cleared the street and gathered at memorial park where Kenny gave an inspirational speech with other activists.
He pointed out protestors who began to ignore him and ran through the streets. Another group, separate from those listening to Kenny, were charging toward police and running into traffic.
United we stand, divided we fall. After people spoke their truth, the youth began to march toward the St. Louis city police station.
Things were nonviolent until escalating as usual with tear gas. Shots were fired and everyone ran. The purge had commenced. Many stores were looted. A retired policeman died while defending a local pawn shop.
Wednesday, June 3rd
St. Charles held a protest. The organizers were assisted by police and told where to march. Police knelt with protestors and activists dispersed afterward.
There is criticism amongst other activists whether the organizations leading certain protests are truly practicing civil disobedience. Organizers of County protests and ExpectUs get permission from the police before holding their demonstrations.
Clara Holmes, Robinson and other leaders have expressed animosity within the organizers themselves. Either way, they find ways to all come together for the same cause and make a statement.
All leaders of St. Louis protests are following the list of demands presented at June 1st’s protest. Expect Us printed and passed out the, “Five Point Plan For Our Future STL.” It includes: defunding the police; disarm, decommission, and dismiss; close the workhouse; free political prisoners and make reparations.
If these demands are not met. No Justice. No Peace