Ferguson October Day Four: Dozens of Arrests During 'Day of Civil Disobedience'
(Updated at 10:45 p.m. with additional information about the arrests)
Amid pouring rains and a tornado watch, the fourth day of a national call to action in St. Louis included protests and dozens of arrests in Ferguson and elsewhere.
The events Monday included a march led by clergy to the Ferguson Police Department, a "dead-in" at Washington University in St. Louis and a demonstration at St. Louis City Hall.
As of 7:30 p.m., police had taken 49 people into custody, including visiting civil rights activist and professor Cornel West and the Rev. Osagyefo Seku.
Additional actions Monday night included demonstrations at the Rams game, at a fundraiser for Democratic county executive candidate Steve Stenger, at several Walmarts and at Plaza Frontenac. Stenger is a target because of his close association with county prosecutor Bob McCulloch. The Walmarts were a focus because a Walmart in Ohio was the site of another police shooting that has drawn protest.
Clergy Arrested Outside Ferguson Police Department
Faith leaders led hundreds of marchers up to the Ferguson Police Department around 10 a.m. Once there, demonstrators sang, prayed and marked a chalk outline of a body on the parking lot’s pavement as a memorial. Some held mirrors near the police line, so officers could see their reflections.
Police began to arrest 43 demonstrators — many of them clergy members — around 12 p.m. At least some of them were charged with peace disturbance, a misdemeanor offense, according to state law. An earlier report of 37 arrests was incorrect.
A spokesperson for the St. Louis County Police Department said in an email that protesters were arrested after they had begun to bump riot shields and force themselves through the police skirmish line.
Among those arrested was West, who made a keynote speech Sunday night at a meeting that was part of the Ferguson October campaign.
“I didn’t come to come here and give a speech, I came to go to jail,” West announced to a crowd of thousands gathered in Saint Louis University’s Chaifetz Arena.
Christ Church Cathedral Dean Mike Kinman said four Episcopal clergy members were arrested, as well as a youth leader and two student interns with the Diocese of Missouri.
Protest Group Blocks Traffic Near Emerson Electric
Six people were arrested around 12:40 p.m. near Emerson Electric, 8000 West Florissant Ave., in Ferguson, after they blocked a street while holding a banner that read, "Black Lives Matter."
Organizers said a group of labor leaders and community members had hoped to call attention to economic inequalities in Ferguson. They also said the Fortune 500 company should be a “better corporate neighbor.”
In mid-September, Emerson announced a renewed commitment to Ferguson, where it has had its headquarters for 70 years. The "Ferguson Forward" program promises to fund early childhood education programs, offer jobs to 100 youth, provide millions of dollars in scholarships for area students, and help develop businesses.
A police statement Monday said the demonstrators were arrested for blocking traffic and refusing to clear the street, and were charged with "refusal to disperse."
Demonstrators Arrive at City Hall in St. Louis
At City Hall, about 75 protesters gathered in the rotunda, blowing whistles, chanting, and calling for Mayor Francis Slay to come out and receive a list of demands. Kennard Williams, one of the leaders, was eventually given the chance to meet with Slay’s chief of staff, Jeff Rainford.
“Our elected officials have the power to change things, like the conduct of the police force, and how things are in the city that led to the Shaw incident,” Williams said.
An off-duty police officer shot and killed 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr. on Wednesday after the teen allegedly fired at him.
The protesters want the city to put body cameras on all 900 officers in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and to create a civilian review board for the department. They also want the St. Louis police to give up all military surplus equipment to conduct an independent review of all fatal police shootings.
The protesters' demands are achievable, Rainford said, though not immediately. Body cameras and a civilian review board are already in the works.
Administration officials said they have received nothing from the 1033 program besides helmets and a helicopter. And the St. Louis circuit attorney, Jennifer Joyce, has already agreed to review all shootings by a police officer regardless of whether charges are filed.
Rainford, the chief of staff, emphasized that the voices of the protesters mattered.
“If we do this through yelling at each other, and through emotion and getting mad at each other and talking past each other, we’ll never get to where we need to be,” he said.
Rainford said the protesters are welcome to stay in the rotunda as long as they want, even offering to buy them pizza.
St. Louis Metropolitan Police reported one arrest at the City Hall event.
Students Stage Events on St. Louis-Area Campuses
At Washington University, several students dressed in black clothing staged a “dead-in," falling to the floor as tour groups and students eating lunch looked on, according to Student Life, the campus newspaper.
The demonstration was accompanied by the reading of the names of Mike Brown, Vonderrit Myers and other people shot and killed by police, the newspaper said. One of the participants, senior Jonathan Karp, said that the demonstration was part of a day of activism throughout the St. Louis area to continue more than two months of protests since Brown’s death on Aug. 9.
“Time after time we’ve heard from all the organizers on the ground and everybody that the most important work for us to do is in our communities,” Karp told the newspaper. “Obviously, there’s a lot of work to do here at Wash. U.”
Student Life said that the reaction to the protest was mixed, with some students stopping to listen to the names being read while others simply stepped over the students on the floor or continuing to talk among themselves.
Around 11:30 a.m., a group of St. Louis Community College students staged a walkout at the Meramec campus in Kirkwood. Due to rain, the group moved to a corner of the cafeteria.
“Meramec is in a predominantly white area. The issues in Ferguson were being ignored, so some students stepped up to take a stand, and they staged a walkout,” said organizer Alexis Templeton of the protest group, Millennial Activists United.