Ferguson October: Young Protesters Reject Message Delivered By Older Religious Leaders

chaifetz mass meeting

Ferguson October, a series of events in St. Louis focused on discussing police violence and racial disparity, hit something of a crescendo on Sunday evening after an interfaith gathering at Saint Louis University’s Chaifetz Arena. The mass meeting, which was headlined by Dr. Cornel West, featured a number of religious and civil  leaders making speeches. As the gathering wore on, younger activists, who have been on the ground in Ferguson since an unarmed Michael Brown was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson over two months ago, started growing restless.

The feeling among many in the crowd was that many of these older speakers were spouting the same lines that they’ve heard hundreds of times before. Another issue that made some angry is that those on the stage had really not been in Ferguson or St. Louis over the past two+ months, while younger activists had been doing all the work and keeping the pressure on the government systems in the area. Eventually, Tef Poe, a local musician and activist, got on stage and took those who had been speaking to task for not showing up until now. At that point, others began yelling from the crowd, demanding answers from those on stage. Essentially, they wanted to know if the older ‘leaders’ had any plans for action, or if they were just there to be heard.



The one person most in the crowd did want to hear from, though, was West. After the program’s schedule had fallen apart, West was given the microphone and he delivered a searing speech that energized the crowd. Many of the activists in Ferguson have drawn inspiration from West’s writing and speeches and really wanted to hear what he had to say. While West is from an ‘older’ generation, he’s also seen as someone who isn’t afraid to buck trends and speak truth to power. West acknowledged that the older generations had failed the black youth of today when it comes to racial justice.

“The older generation has been too well adjusted to injustice to listen to the younger generation. The older generation has been too obsessed with being successful rather than being faithful to a cause that was zeroing in on the plight of the poor and working people. Thank God the awakening is setting in. And any time the awakening sets in it gets a little messy.”

West also spoke about access versus true participation and ownership within society. He claimed that many middle- and upper-class African-Americans have been subjugated with money and status. Therefore, they are intimidated and will not speak out about the injustices they and others of their race face on a daily basis, fearing that they will lose what they have achieved. West’s speech gave inspiration to the activists in the crowd and helped give them a little boost before the activities that followed.

After West was done speaking, people from the crowd headed out and most gathered in one of two places. Some joined other protesters at 4200 Shaw, which is where 18-year-old VonDerrit Myers, Jr. was shot and killed last Wednesday by an off-duty St. Louis police officer. Eventually, over 500 people showed up at the demonstration. Another group of protesters headed towards The Grove, a business and entertainment district in St. Louis. The demonstrators at The Grove marched through the street. Many decided to play games like jump rope and patty cake in the street, which was their statement on the seriousness of the protests, as they wanted to show what games really look like.

By 2 AM, the two separate groups marched and joined up at Saint Louis University. Both groups picked up additional demonstrators along the way. By the time they gathered at SLU, the crowd was well over one thousand and perhaps as large as two thousand. The protesters staged a sit-in on the campus and were joined by students who left their dormitories. While the mood was jubilant and passions were high, exhaustion finally started setting in for a large number of the protesters. After marching for miles and being up until the wee hours of the morning, many demonstrators began sleeping on the ground. By 4 AM, the crowd dwindled considerably, but there were still a handful of die-hards going. No arrests were made.

Monday is the last planned day of Ferguson October. Unlike the previous three days, Monday’s activities have been kept secret until just before they occur. They are calling it Moral Monday, linking it to the protests that have been held in North Carolina in response to voter discrimination laws and cuts in social programs. Instructions for the day will be sent via text message, email and social media shortly before they begin.


Image: St. Louis Public Radio

7 Replies to “Ferguson October: Young Protesters Reject Message Delivered By Older Religious Leaders”

  1. First they called them lazy, then they called them thugs. Neither name stuck, so they found more ways to slander them. When they massed together and exercised their rights at the polls they made a point that was rebutted with obstructionist. Now they want to kill the vote for the real fear lies in the truth to them, the truth that would set all men free. They hope to intimidate by murderous acts that go unpunished they want to put these boys in there places…..but the word is out told by another man that stood up to them before and preached it all in the name of Jesus! I ask you to read and remember the fire Dr King set as he asked you to do as Jesus would don’t back down a bit in fact explain to those that have given up that this is another round in a fight our savior fought be strong, be proud, turn away from arrogance, anger, and hate. Spread the love and keep up the pressure for that is what is right.

  2. If they’re listening to West telling them not to vote b/c both parties are cut from the same cloths. Their objective are doom to fail. 1. West showing up after months of silence giving fire up speeches that will solves nothing. But feed the angrier of the crowd. Shows his objective is nothing but political to line his pockets.

  3. There is a media bias that leads to only Trayvon Martin, the Ferguson shooting etc. being considered as worthy of being reported. Have you ever heard of Dr. Divyendu Sinha? I didn’t think so.

    Dr. Divyendu Sinha was assaulted while walking in his neighborhood in New Jersey with his wife and sons. He died 3 days later in hospital. The jury acquitted 2 defendants who were identified by the wife as attackers. Why? The defendants were black and many jury members were black. However to the media this was a non-event.

    There is an increasing amount of new forms of discrimination and racism. Justice requires that everyone and every ethnicity be treated equally, rather than only focusing on one community. Ignoring Dr. Divyendu Sinha and pretending his murder was of no consequence is not justice.

  4. There is no new racism. You are talking about a person from India. Have you heard about the racism in India against black Africans and black skinned Indians and the caste system untouchables? Have you heard about Indian men assaulting Africans and raping black skinned Indian women? Well you should have heard of all of this because it happens all the time in India.

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