White coat wearing-health care workers, teens too young to vote and members and allies of the LGBTQ community were among the groups that showed up by the thousands Friday at more than a half-dozen marches and protests in the St. Louis metro area.
The protests were the latest large-scale demonstrations to follow the violent death of George Floyd, and they highlighted the different ways that racism and police brutality against black Americans play out.
A crowd protesting violence against transgender African Americans grew to hundreds as it marched in a 3.5-mile loop between the Grove, a hub of LGBTQ life in St. Louis, and the Central West End.
Demonstrators chanted the name of Kiwi Herring, a black trans woman killed by St. Louis police in 2017, and carried posters with the names and faces of others who died. The Human Rights Campaign found that in 2019, black trans women made up the vast majority of trans and gender-nonconforming individuals killed in the U.S.
The group blocked traffic along the march route and threw a Soul Train-style dance line on Forest Park Parkway near Sarah Street about an hour before sunset.
Protest organizers also issued a list of demands, including the decriminalization of sex work and transmitting HIV; expansion of Medicaid in Missouri; and passage of a statewide nondiscrimination law that protects LGBTQ people from job and housing discrimination.
As dusk settled, much of the crowd defied the nightly 9 p.m. curfew St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson imposed this week after violence erupted downtown late Monday. Eventually, the crowd gathered at the Transgender Memorial Garden in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood, and the event officially ended with the familiar protest chant of Assata Shakur’s words: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support one another. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Police made no arrests and continued to block intersections to clear a path ahead for marchers, despite the event lasting until about a half-hour after curfew.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of health care workers lined sidewalks in St. Louis to participate in a nationwide protest known as #WhiteCoatsForBlackLives.
Photos and videos posted to social media showed doctors, nurses and other medical staff standing outside the Washington University Medical Campus with signs supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
Some outside the city’s largest medical center took a knee for nearly nine minutes, a reference to the length of time a Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck. His death at the hands of police, caught on video last week, has sparked unrest across the country and galvanized a movement fighting racism and police violence against African Americans.
Hundreds of health care workers stand along Kingshighway in support of BLM. pic.twitter.com/Nt53oM1IM9
— David Mueth (@DavidMueth) June 5, 2020
The protest came a day after the St. Louis County Council adopted a resolution calling racism a public health issue.
And Friday afternoon, a youth-led march traveled nearly nine miles along Clayton Road, through Ladue, Frontenac and Town and Country, some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in St. Louis County.
Recent Ladue High School graduate Victoria Neal told the crowd that she organized the march there because the people who live in those neighborhoods have the money and power to lobby for change.
“They told us we couldn’t get a crowd in Ladue. But this doesn’t look like apathy,” she said of the protest, which overflowed intersections and was among the youngest gatherings in the region.
“Say his name — George Floyd,” they chanted.
Marchers began in front of Plaza Frontenac on South Lindbergh Road. People handed out bottles of water along the route and an ambulance from the Brentwood Fire Department followed behind the crowd.
The crowd shrank as the evening wore on and temperatures stayed in the 80s. But those who remained chanted, “We young, we strong, we marching all night long.”
Other demonstrations were held Friday in Chesterfield, Ferguson, St. Charles, St. Peters and south St. Louis.
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