Updated at 10:30 p.m. with a march in St. Charles.
Hundreds of people took to the streets of Kirkwood on Saturday morning to protest police brutality and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others killed by law enforcement.
The protest was among several in the St. Louis region Saturday, including demonstrations in St. Charles, University City, Clayton, Freeburg and O'Fallon, Illinois.
In Kirkwood, many carried signs reading, “We Can’t Breathe,” “White Silence Is Violence” and “Defund The Police.”
Marchers also used chants that have become familiar in the protests, including “No Justice, No Peace” and “I Can’t Breathe.”
Marchers in Kirkwood approaching Kirkwood High School. pic.twitter.com/xwSB5nyq5M
— Wayne Pratt (@wayneradio) June 6, 2020
The rally from North Kirkwood Middle School to Kirkwood High School was described as a peace march by organizers, one of whom, Dr. Shonda Ambers-Phillips, remembers talking to parents in the district about race decades years ago.
“Unfortunately, the cycle repeated itself — and all black families probably know what I’m talking about — when I had to have the talk with my son about race,” she said.
“It was one of the hardest conversations that I had to have.”
Ambers-Phillips is the executive director of student services in the Kirkwood School District, with a focus on equity, wellness and inclusion.
Police block protesters from interstate in St. Charles
The ExpectUs #SayHerNameRally drew hundreds in St. Charles on Saturday afternoon to highlight the life of Breonna Taylor, a black woman fatally shot by Louisville police officers on March 13.
“She is just now getting some of that same recognition that men who have been killed by police in the past have already gotten,” activist Ohun Ashe said. “So we thought it was super important to uplift her, to uplift her story … because black women are getting killed by police as well.”
The rally began at the AMC movie theater parking lot. Toward the end of the march, protesters wanted to get onto Interstate 70 at Highway 94, but were met by more than two dozen police officers in riot gear blocking them from the roadway.
The 45-minute standoff did not lead to a confrontation. In that time, demonstrators kneeled for eight minutes, symbolizing the amount of times police struck Taylor. Protesters finished the march at the intersection of Lombard and South Fifth.
Listen to a special edition of St. Louis on the Air about the protests:
For St. Charles resident Lusajo Kasyupa, attending a protest wasn’t a first — but he said being around police in riot gear was.
“I wasn’t afraid, I really wasn’t,” Kasyupa said. “And when I thought about all the men and women who have already laid their lives before me, I’m a beneficiary of their sacrifices, I found it worth it, standing right there.”
He said he felt compelled to protest to remember Floyd and Taylor and because of his children.
“What drew me today was the death of George Floyd, as well as Breonna Taylor. I felt because they don’t have a voice, I have to be that voice,” he explained. “I have two growing boys and a young daughter. They’ve had many questions — some of them have caused me to break down and cry — and I have to do it for them, if for no one else.”
While ExpectUs rallies tend to draw larger crowds than others, Ashe said she encourages activists to keep organizing across the region.
“The beautiful thing is seeing these students getting their time, seeing other people organizing and putting things together so we want to highlight everybody that is doing something for justice — because it’s going to take all of us,” she said.
Hundreds of protesters also marched through University City to Clayton on Saturday evening.
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