The first day of a planned four-day “weekend of resistance” got off to a tense but peaceful start Friday as hundreds of demonstrators amassed outside the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office and the Ferguson Police Department to protest the Aug. 9 fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
A multitude of activist groups from St. Louis and around the U.S. have sent members to take part in the weekend’s activities, which are intended to raise awareness about police shootings and racial inequality.
Saturday’s events are expected to include a march in downtown St. Louis and workshops with titles such as “Black Liberation Racial Justice Dialogue” and “The Whole System Is Guilty: How Socialists Fight Systemic Racism.”
Sunday’s major events include a “Hip Hop & Resistance” concert featuring artist Talib Kweli as the headliner, and a large evening interfaith service with activist Cornel West to speak.
Brian Crawly, 26, of Wellston, Mo., a member of the Hands Up, Don’t Shoot Coalition — one of several activist groups to pop up after the unrest began in Ferguson — said he spent the past three weeks helping organize the weekend and canvassing Ferguson residents to see if they’d participate.
“We had some people that slammed the door in our face [but also] people happy we were out there,” Crawly said. He spoke Friday afternoon while attending a cold and rainy march around St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s office in Clayton, where demonstrators again requested McCullough step aside from handling the grand jury investigating Brown’s death.
“I’m really excited that all the people we talked to, we see some faces out here … in the cold and the rain,” Crawly said. “It makes me happy … a lot of work goes behind it.”
Police officers amassed outside McCulloch’s office to face the crowd, which never forced a confrontation before leaving.
Things got tenser at a Friday night march on the Ferguson Police Department, where some of the hundreds of peaceful demonstrators hurled verbal abuse at a line of riot police from various St. Louis-area agencies who formed a line in the parking lot outside the station.
One black trooper for the Missouri State Highway Patrol in particular faced a significant amount of scorn, but, like the other officers, maintained a stony expression and did not react. Many demonstrators held signs protesting police shootings, and a few held American flags upside down.
Clinton Lowe, 32, of New York City said he had arrived at the weekend’s planned demonstrations to “be on the ground, at ground zero for Mike Brown.”
Lowe said he was visiting St. Louis for the first time, staying with a friend at Washington University. He said he hoped to “talk to the locals” who have been dealing with life in a Ferguson, because he said he didn’t feel he’d been getting the full story from the media.
Lowe watched as one man from St. Louis County hurled invective at a Ferguson police officer holding a scuffed plastic riot shield so high that it covered his face. “That’s the energy I want to feel, what’s really going on,” Lowe said.
The crowd eventually dwindled as demonstrators urged others to save their energy for a Saturday morning march. It was just day one of four, after all.