Almost 60 days after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot
six times and left for 4 hours and 34 minutes in the street in front of the
apartment complex where he lived, the youth of Ferguson, Missouri are not
letting their community, state or country forget. Their cries of "Hands Up,
Don't Shoot" have echoed across American cities as they press for police
accountability in the large numbers of police shootings of unarmed persons of
Nor are they letting the country forget the militarized response by local
and state police agencies to protests that followed Brown's shooting. After more than two
months, there still is no decision by the county's grand jury on whether
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will be charged in the death of
I joined CODEPINK: Women for Peace, Veterans for Peace
and Palestine Solidarity groups in Ferguson and St. Louis for the Weekend of
Resistance October 9-12, 2014. The weekend was
an important acknowledgement of continuing local community and national concern
for police brutality, racism and injustice.
Organized by those who daily have challenged police brutality in Ferguson, the four days of solidarity provided an opportunity for persons from around the country
to join those on the front lines.
The protest baton in Ferguson is firmly in the hands of
the youth of the community. While supported by
many of their elders, the spirit and commitment to challenge police brutality
has been generated by the younger generation as they take on the mantle of the
leaders of the movement.
During the 60 days
since Michael Brown's death, they have held a daily vigil, sometimes 24-hours a
day, in front of the Ferguson police station.
In the evenings, a larger group forms across the street from the police
station with signs against police brutality and in the evening a larger group
crosses the street to stand directly in front
of the police station.
With the killing of 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers on
October 9, the night before the Weekend of Resistance began, vigils are also
held at the site where he was killed on Shaw Street in South St. Louis by an
off-duty St. Louis police officer working for a private security company who
fired 17 bullets hitting Myers seven times, including the fatal shot to his
The police say the off-duty officer felt the three youth were "suspicious" upon emerging from a local deli and began
following them. The police officer reportedly
said that three shots were fired at him and he returned fire with 17
bullets. Surveillance tapes at the deli show him buying a sandwich with no weapon visible
. Police say that a weapon that had been fired three times was found at the shooting scene.
Many of the youth leaders have been very disappointed by
the lack of assistance from major civil rights groups including the Missouri
NAACP. They feel they have been carrying the
load without much help from organizations they had hoped would have spoken out
more strongly and would have provided long-term support to challenge systemic
During the Weekend of Resistance, activists joined many
actions planned by the youth organizers. On
Friday, October 10, despite an intense rainstorm, hundreds marched in Clayton,
Missouri demanding that the county prosecutor step down.
On Saturday, October 11, thousands marched in St. Louis, challenging police brutality and racism, and in the evening marched from Michael
Brown's memorial in the apartment complex where he lived and died to the
Ferguson police station.
On Sunday, October 12, 150 women
gathered to share stories of social injustice in the St. Louis area. Later in the afternoon, nationally known Hip Hop
artists portrayed police brutality and injustice intensely in spoken word and
songs. That evening, an inter-religious
symposium with local and national speakers, including Dr. Cornell West, culminated
with rebellion in the audience in support of youth of the front lines of protest
being allowed to speak to the 4,000 person audience. Democracy prevailed when
the organizers rightfully changed the program to include the voices of the youth
than evening, the vigil for Vonderritt Myers ended in marches that came together
at 1 am on the campus of St. Louis University, where Myers' father is
employed. Police attempted to stop the march
by blocking the sidewalk on a major bridge leading to the campus, but with the
intervention of the National Lawyers Guild, the riot police who had been
ominously hitting their police batons on the street in an attempt to intimidate
the 500 marchers, finally faded away without instigating an incident with the
national and international media in St. Louis to cover the protests and the
heightened national dialogue on militarization of police, law enforcement had
made the decision to keep their military vehicles out of sight. However, heavily armed riot police used pepper
spray and tear gas twice during the weekend,
once when protesters blocked an intersection at the end of a march in memory of
Myers and a second time when marchers blocked the entrance to a local gas
On Monday, October 13, religious leaders in the
community joined in a "Moral Monday" march to the Ferguson police station. Clergy talked nose-to-nose with members of the
Ferguson police department who were lined up in front of the station. Displaying for the cameras a different image from
60 days ago, Ferguson police had name tags on their shirts and had ditched the
hard helmets with visors for a softer look with regular police hats. However, lurking in the parking lot were the ninja
turtle riot police fully decked out with padded uniforms with no name tags,
black batons, plastic shields, tasers and weapons.
Religious leaders of Christian, Jewish
and Muslim faiths talked with about 20 Ferguson police officers as they stood in
a line in front of the police station.
Remarkably, a few of the police officers actually responded to the
comments of the clergy and a couple of conversations developed. More remarkably,
a several of the conversations ended with hugs between the clergy and the police
However, as one could predict, most
police officers stood stone-faced with jaws clenched.
They are the ones we hope can be reached to do their jobs with respect
for those they serve.
Other actions on
Moral Monday included actions at three Wal-Marts in memory of John Crawford, 22,
who was killed on August 5 by police in an Ohio Wal-Mart while carrying a
pellet gun sold at Wal-Mart.
Other actions on Monday to remind the
community of police killings took place at an upscale Mall, at a Missouri State
office and at a political fundraiser.
The Weekend of Resistance was a time for
mothers and fathers whose children had been killed by police to get
together. Colletta Flanagan travelled to Ferguson from Dallas, Texas. Flanagan's son Clinton Allen was killed by police
last year in Dallas. Flanagan formed a group called Mothers Against Police Brutality
, and was in
Ferguson in support of the mothers of Michael Brown and Vonderrit Myers and
other mothers whose children haven been killed by police.
"I've seen claims of 'public safety' used to justify senseless abuses, including my son Clinton Allen's murder
at the hands of a Dallas police officer. I don't want the same unaccountable culture of secrecy to protect the agencies using 'national security' as a pretext to assault me and my neighbors' rights. No one's security required my son to be taken from me, or his life to be taken from him, and no
one's security requires that my government tap my phone or track my use of the Internet."
Communities around the country will hold
more actions for police accountability on October 22, the national day of action
against police brutality.
Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand (more...