Checking in from Ferguson
|On the streets last night in West St. Louis (I am on the right in the red)|
Last night I had the chance to ride around St. Louis and Ferguson with Veterans For Peace (VFP) Executive Director Michael McPherson who is also serving as co-chair of the Don't Shoot Coalition. I was quite impressed with the planning and coordination that is going around the protests that continue both in St. Louis and nearby Ferguson.
We made stops at several 'safe houses' where food, medical workers, and other volunteers were assembled to give aid to people who are currently protesting or have been released from jail. The VFP office is real close to the county jail where most of those arrested have been taken.
We also stopped to join a protest of a couple hundred people that were blocking street intersections in a 'trendy' part of west St. Louis. At one intersection an elderly white couple were in their car and having to wait while the peaceful occupation of the road was going on. The white man in the car was honking and flailing his arms demanding the blockade be removed. I moved over and stood in front of their car so they could see a white person was part of the blockade. At another intersection a black woman was the first car blocked and her reaction was one of solidarity, positive waves, and a smile. Many cars were honking their support.
Next Michael drove us to Ferguson - the scene of continued protests against the killing of Michael Brown. Some roads were blocked in the community and the dark sky was dotted with helicopters (likely media and police) making a large continuous circle around the town. We went to the safe house inside a local church basement that was staffed by about six women and men. They reported that two nights ago things were busy with young people who were tear gassed coming there for aid and safety. Last night was different as they police had shut down the road between where the protests were happening at the Ferguson police department and the safe space. Michael explored with the volunteers whether additional safe houses in Ferguson would be needed as the police made tactical adjustments.
It is clear that the local authorities made the Grand Jury announcement so close to Thanksgiving for a reason. They knew that it would throw a monkey wrench into the local protest movement planning and it has. A meeting is being held today (that I hope to attend) to review what comes next.
Two nights ago it appears that virtually the entire greater St. Louis metro area was shut down - mostly needlessly out of over-hyped fear.
I'm not the only one from VFP to come to St. Louis to show solidarity. Last night I slept on the floor as did other members who came from across the country to be here. I am glad to be here and can say without hesitation that the organizers are doing everything they can to keep the protests non-violent and positive. After watching some police and some private security types last night in action I can say that they are the ones we need to be concerned about.