Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Letter to St. Louis Post-Dispatch

VFP member Russell Johnson manhandled by St. Louis cops at city hall protest

Dear Editor:

I have been in St. Louis for the past week. I came from my home in Maine to join other members of Veterans for Peace who have come to your community to stand with those who are outraged over the killing of Michael Brown. Yesterday I helped shut down the Galleria Mall for about 90 minutes on what was appropriately renamed 'Brown Friday'.

I picked up your paper (11-30-14) and was drawn to the Opinion page. I read local columnist Bill McClellan's piece suggesting that it was "Time to move on....Whatever happened happened." Not quite the kind of attitude that shows the community is really ready or willing to deal with the reality of racism and economic disparity that causes these tragic circumstances. It appears to me that Mr. McClellan is missing the historic moment here.

After witnessing St. Louis's "finest" charge a peaceful group of us sitting on city hall steps the other day I got a feel for how police work is done around here. Barely given a chance to disperse I got a billy club in my chest as I tried to find a way from the steps around the cops. One of our Veterans for Peace members (a Persian Gulf war vet from North Carolina) was tackled from behind as he moved away from the steps and was then grabbed by four cops who dislocated his shoulder as they man-handled him into a police van. He is a tall black man and we all wondered if he was selected for "prosecution" in that moment.

I'd not recommend anyone ever come to St. Louis for a vacation - this doesn't seem to be a very friendly city. But I'm already suggesting that fellow Mainers come join the protests that I hope will ultimately force this community to deal with its cold-hearted treatment of its black citizens.

Bruce K. Gagnon
Maine Veterans for Peace
Bath, Maine


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