Clayton, MO: My daughter eats her school lunch indoors with an armed policeman standing by because even here in this desirable seat of St. Louis County, we’re not free to send our kids to school without fearing for their lives.
Last weekend a crowd of heavily-armed, white people marched through downtown St. Louis, right past the courthouse where Dred Scott was tried and thrown back into slavery. A small group of police officers stood casually to the side. Despite its stunning irony, this spectacle garnered nearly no media attention.
In America, there’s nothing newsworthy about a crowd of heavily-armed white people marching through the streets of a major city. These folks were exercising freedoms they acquired in August when voters passed a state constitutional amendment bolstering gun rights. Last month the Missouri legislature enacted a separate law that undercuts municipal bans against “open carry”—a phrase that spits itself out a little too proudly.
It was also in August, on the balmy evening of the 18th, that I was standing in Ferguson’s West Florissant Avenue with a group of peaceful protestors. The crowd included elderly people, a man with a cane, one senior citizen in a wheelchair, and children. Walking among the crowd, I saw no illegal activities. Ahead of us the wide avenue was blocked by MRAPs and military-kitted police pointing rifles at us.
Suddenly there was tear gas everywhere. A flash-bang grenade whizzed by my head and exploded just before me as I attempted to flee. From the police line, several shots rang out. The crowd panicked. As the protestors retreated up Florissant Avenue, the police pursued. It was tough to stay ahead of the police, and it was terrifying. Being in my sixties with an ankle injury, I was fortunate that a black family offered me a lift in their SUV. The three kids in the back made room for me. Because the family stopped to help me, we were in the last civilian car rolling away from the police advance.
Ahead of us, tear gas exploded. Behind us, an MRAP broke from the police line and sped toward the SUV. Our driver hit the accelerator, and we careened dangerously up the street. When we crossed the Dellwood city line, the MRAP swerved down a Ferguson side street.
On the streets of Ferguson that week, peaceful Americans were deprived of their constitutional rights: their freedom of speech and assembly; their protection from unlawful search and seizure; their right to due process.
Now I’m trying to imagine what will happen when a group of black Ferguson citizens exercise their constitutional right to openly carry guns down West Florissant Avenue. (Or what would happen if a group of Muslim Americans went heavily armed to visit one of the America’s most iconic national monuments?)
Secure in my stylish suburb and the privileges of my white skin, I don’t yet have to worry about MRAPs chasing me through the streets. But my daughter in her expensive school is not one bit safer from those gun belts and assault rifles that paraded their way through the Gateway Arch last Saturday.
This article was originally published at cunningofreason.com
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