More than 1,000 people marched through downtown St. Louis Saturday to protest the death of Michael Brown and other young, black men at the hands of police officers. The Saturday action extended into Sunday morning, as about 100 people marched from the Shaw neighborhood to a QuikTrip on Vandeventer Avenue near the entrance to the Grove neighborhood. That followed a vigil and march in Ferguson.
At the downtown march, despite the serious message, the mood was almost party-like at times, with music, drums and even a trumpet.
The diverse crowd of protesters was boisterous but peaceful, and included Latino workers from Chicago, seminary students from New York, and St. Louisans both black and white. Labor groups and Veterans for Peace also joined the march.
“It wasn’t just about the black. You had white supporters out here, all different nationalities. And that’s what really caught my attention,” said Marcel Lambert of St. Louis.
Lambert said he’d never seen St. Louisans come together across racial lines like this, and it gave him hope.
While the central message of the event was justice for Mike Brown and other black men who died at the hands of police, many side messages were represented. Some called for jobs with justice, others called for socialist government.
But Candice Young of St. Louis says the group’s overriding message was one of unity.
“At the end of the day we can all come together for one common thing. Like I said, we’re just trying to get some justice. Get the community right with the police, get the police to trust the community, we trust them.”
Young says she feels like their voices are being heard now, and she is hopeful that their calls for justice will be answered.
After the march, Ferguson October organizers rallied the crowd with speeches at Kiener Plaza, calling on everyone to organize against police violence in their hometowns.
“We had a bloody August, a rebellious September, and now we’re here,” said Tory Russell of Hands Up United and the Organization for Black Struggle. “We got to go home, we got to go back to the hoods, the projects, your parish, your town, your city, your borough … and organize, organize, organize.”
“This is not just about Ferguson, this is not just about St. Louis,” said Alexis Templeton of Millennial Activists United. “We’re about empowering the youth and making sure they know that they matter.”
Pointing to the nearby Gateway Arch, she added, “We want St. Louis to know, in front of this Arch, that we aren’t going anywhere until you stop killing us.”
Police on bicycles escorted the marchers and no confrontations were reported.
Teach-ins, seminars and dinners followed the rally. The dinners were set up as potlucks with those who came breaking into small circles so they could have conversations about racism and other issues.
After midnight, a group of protesters who had gathered in the Shaw neighborhood started marching north. They had been near the site where Vonderrit Myers Jr. was shot and killed after a confrontation with an off-duty police officer. The police say Myers fired first; his family says he was unarmed.
The demonstrators went along Vandeventer to Chouteau Avenue where they staged a sit-in at the QuikTrip there. Police moved in wearing riot gear, clanking batons on the pavement. It appeared that some arrests were made, one officer said a dozen would not be far off, and lines of officers forced protesters further north. Pepper or tear gas was sprayed from canisters.
Earlier a vigil was held at the Canfield Green apartment complex. More than 200 demonstrators gathered to honor Michael Brown. Family members, including his mother Lesley McSpadden, were in attendance. Family members who addressed the crowd thanked people for their support and encouraged lawful and peaceful protest.
From Canfield, the crowd marched to the Ferguson Police Department where a demonstration lasted for several hours. The mood was tense at times, but also had something of a celebratory feel.
Emanuele Berry and Durrie Bouscaren contributed to this article.
Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.