On a weekend when the major focus will be on the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, several hundred people marched in south St. Louis Saturday to remember VonDerrit Myers Jr.
Last Oct. 8 – nearly two months after Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer – Myers was shot to death in the 4100 block of Shaw by St. Louis policeman Jason Flanery, who was off-duty working as a security guard. Myers' death prompted protests and property damage in south St. Louis, both after the shooting and after a grand jury did not indict Darren Wilson in Brown’s killing.
In May, Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce announced that Flanery would not be charged because “prosecutors have determined a criminal violation could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The evening the circuit attorney issued her report, a vigil was held in the neighborhood where the shooting took place. The next morning a group of 30 or so people took to the streets near the Carnahan Courthouse, which houses the circuit attorney's office.
On Saturday, the crowd began to gather near Mullanphy school in advance of the 2 p.m. scheduled start of the march. Many were wearing T-shirts being handed out to the crowd with the hashtag #unitedwefight and the words “educate demonstrate liberate” displayed beneath a picture of a black fist thrust through the center of a bright yellow map of the United States.
Across the street, near a makeshift memorial to Myers, his parents huddled with a small group, including attorney Jermaine Wooten. After Joyce said no charges would be filed against Flanery, attorneys had said that a wrongful-death suit would be filed in the death of Myers. Wooten said no suit has been filed yet because further investigation was needed in the wake of the circuit attorney’s report.
He said again that a suit would be filed soon, but the family wanted to wait so that the focus would not be deflected from Brown on the anniversary of his death.
He said the suit, to be filed in state court, would seek multimillion-dollar damages from the city, the police force that trained Flanery and the security firm that had hired him to work off-duty.
VonDerrit Myers Sr. said he hoped the march would help people remember his son and the way he died.
“I want to carry his name,” he said. “I want his spirit to go on, and I want justice.”
Myers added that the whole event was about more than just the death of his son.
“This march really is a movement,” he said. “This march is for the rest of the world to see, showing we can still pull together as a people, and showing the loss of all children being taken by police brutality.”
About 2:40, with Myers’ parents leading the way behind a banner reading United We Fight, the march began moving east on Shaw to Grand. An hour later, it arrived at Hartford, where marchers were greeted by snacks, water, a barbecue food truck and music in a small park.
Throughout the event, slogans that have become familiar over the past year were changed in a call-and-response. Marchers referred to the younger Myers as “Droop,” his nickname, and proclaimed “I know that we will win,” “No justice, no peace!” and “We’re doing this for VonDerrit.”
Signs carried by the crowd included “eracism,” “we must stop killing each other” and “white silence is violence.” Along Grand, several cars honked and drivers headed north shouted out their solidarity with the marchers going south.
Overall, the event was spirited but with no trace of menace or negativity. It demonstrated what one of the most frequently used slogans called for:
“Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!
“Show me what community looks like! This is what community looks like!
“Show me what family looks like! This is what family looks like!”