Ferguson October, a weekend long series of events held in the St. Louis area to protest against police violence and racial disparity, officially wrapped up Monday with a number of seemingly spontaneous protests across a number of locations in the metropolitan area. However, the sites were chosen specifically throughout the day and instructions were passed via text and email to protesters in specific areas to show up at certain locations. The day started with a march on the Ferguson police department, where a number of protesters, including Cornel West, were arrested.
That protest, despite a driving rainstorm, went on into the early part of the afternoon. Afterwards, protesters started spreading out to different spots in the St. Louis area. At 3:30 PM local time, young activists from various organizations gathered at the Soldier Memorial in downtown St. Louis. From there, protesters marched to City Hall, demanding to speak to St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. They demanded that Slay answer for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police’s tactics in dealing with demonstrators in the city in the aftermath of the shooting death of VonDerrit Myers, Jr. last week. Specifically, the actions that took place Thursday and Saturday nights. As with the Ferguson protest, a number of protesters were arrested, which would be a running theme through the day.
At the same time the downtown protest was happening, young demonstrators gathered at Frontenac Plaza, an upscale shopping mall in the affluent suburb of Frontenac. They were there to disrupt holiday shopping, as a number of stores had Columbus Day sales. Next on the agenda was the shutting down of the Walmart in Ferguson. As protesters approached, the manager of the store locked the doors and called the police. Eventually, a number of law enforcement officers arrived and formed a line in front of the store.
While this was going on, another group of protesters arrived at a fundraiser for Steve Stenger, the Democratic nominee for St. Louis County Executive. Stenger defeated incumbent Charles Dooley in a hard-fought and, some would say, dirty primary election. Many in the black community feel Stenger, who is white, used race-baiting to defeat Dooley, who is African-American. Stenger has had a difficult time regaining trust from black voters, with many of them threatening to vote for the Republican candidate Rick Stream. In fact, a number of elected black leaders in the St. Louis area have endorsed Stream over Stenger.
Of course, it isn’t just Stenger’s race with Dooley that has black voters and leaders upset. It is Stenger’s support of St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch that has really set off the community. McCulloch has refused to recuse himself from the Michael Brown case despite the feeling that he lacks objectivity due to his extremely close relationship with law enforcement. He has decided to leave it up to a grand jury whether or not Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will be charged with a crime or not. McCulloch just so happened to be at the fundraiser Monday evening. Eventually, a number of protesters were arrested for unlawful assembly and failure to disperse as they attempted to block the entrance of the building.
Around 7:30 PM local time, demonstrators arrived at a Walmart in Maplewood, another suburb of St. Louis and close to the location of the fundraiser. Protesters made it into the store and started chanting and singing. Police were called to the scene, and the store was cleared out and closed. A number of protesters, including local activist and rapper Tef Poe, were arrested. One of those arrested still had her phone with her and tweeted out a photo of her and others in a jail cell.
— patrisse cullors (@osope) October 14, 2014
A large group of people gathered in the parking lot after the arrests. Many were protesters from other locations that had received word via social media, text or email. However, others were normal shoppers who joined in with the demonstrators and started chanting along with them. After a while, the activists within the crowd started moving out as they had other locations left on the agenda. Protesters moved to another Walmart, this one located in north St. Louis County. As with the others, a large group of protesters showed up and displayed civil disobedience, shutting down the store for a period of time. At the same time the action was going on at this Walmart, a group of demonstrators unveiled large banners proclaiming ‘Black Lives Matter’ at the Monday Night Football game in downtown St. Louis. A number of people also gathered on the Saint Louis University campus for a ‘teach-in.’ Some of those who were at the North County Walmart made their way to Hollywood Casino shortly after and disrupted business there.
Walmarts in three other locations also apparently shut their doors in anticipation of protesters showing up, bringing the total to six.
— Umar Lee (@STLAbuBadu) October 14, 2014
The Walmart shutdowns were significant because they were in remembrance of John Crawford, an Ohio man who was shot to death by two police officers in Beavercreek Walmart on August 5th. Crawford was carrying a non-lethal BB gun that he had picked up in the store. Police were called to the store because someone within the store called 911, claiming that there was a black male walking through Walmart waving a loaded rifle at customers. The police officers on the scene assumed Crawford was carrying a real gun due to the dispatch call. Amazingly, a grand jury decided last month not to file any charges against the officers who killed Crawford or the person who made the 911 call. Crawford’s case didn’t receive as much national attention as Brown’s death occurred four days later.
An incomplete list of arrests through the day placed the number at 49. However, it appeared this was just in the county and didn’t include any arrests in St. Louis City. The largest number of arrests appeared to occur at the first event of the day. This also didn’t include arrests made during the late evening hours. Organizers behind the actions were well aware that a number of arrests would be made and worked quickly to secure releases of those detained. Lists of those arrested were also released via Twitter.