FERGUSON, MISSOURI -- The Ferguson night was illuminated Friday by candles and pierced by shouts of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” as dozens protested against police killings of black men and what was viewed as the unjust fatal shootings of Mike Brown and Vonderrit Myers Jr in the last two months. The demonstrators, led by a white car painted with slogans like “Honk For Mike,” with one occupant waving an American flag out the window, made their way to the Ferguson Police Department headquarters as police closed off the road leading to the station to vehicular traffic.
Before the protest made its way down West Florissant Avenue, a diverse crowd composed of college students and activists from across the country gathered two miles from the Ferguson police station. An impromptu singing of “Lean On Me” started, while some participants performed police brutality-themed slam poetry.
The mood was mixed between those with hope that justice would be served with an arrest of Darren Wilson, the officer who shot and killed Brown two months ago, and others who weren’t as optimistic but felt the need to support Brown’s and Myers’ causes anyway.
“There’s a general feeling of apathy that we won’t be accomplishing much, but our voices need to be heard,” said Dhuruv Gupta, a 19-year-old college student who was part of a contingent that made its way to Ferguson from Grinnell College in Iowa, about a five-hour drive from the protest. “Our college is known for its social activism, so we decided to do something." Gupta was one of many protesters who said the demonstration marked the first time they had visited Ferguson.
Orlando Larkins, a 53-year-old black homeless man from St. Louis, was one of the early arrivers to the pre-protest meeting. “It touched my heart to come over here in fellowship with my people,” he said. “Ain’t nothing happening with the police yet. There’s been no justice yet. There’s a lot of praying going on here.”
Mauricelm-Lei Millere, an adviser to the New Black Panther Party, said the fight for justice was starting to get desperate and advocated for violence against police who threaten African-Americans. Millere had been in Ferguson since Brown’s killing in August.
“I’m hopeful that things will get better, but after some time we’ll have to start killing police that are killing us. We have to kill in self-defense,” he said. “We have no choice but to open fire on police. You don’t get [justice] by singing, ‘We Shall Overcome.’ You get a gun to free yourself.”
Others in the crowd shared similar sentiments. Some demonstrators led a chant: “Who do we want? Darrell Wilson. How do we want him? Dead.”
The protest took the form of a mock funeral procession, with men dressed as pall bearers carrying a glass casket. “This casket is for the people who have died from the police,” one of them said.
The crowd yelled “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” a popular refrain in wake of Brown’s death. Dozens of cars followed them, bringing traffic to a standstill. Ferguson police closed off the road on the way to headquarters. Only those on foot were able to make their way to the station. Police officers watched while dressed in riot gear.
Brown’s killing caused a wave of protests in Ferguson in August as large crowds vented their outrage over the unarmed black teen’s death. Myers was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer Wednesday night in St. Louis’ Shaw neighborhood. Police claimed the 18-year-old shot at the officer, who responded with fatal fire, while the teen’s family and supporters said the only thing he was carrying was a sandwich.
Friday night’s demonstration was part of the “Ferguson October” weekend of protests in and around St. Louis. Another rally was planned for downtown St. Louis on Saturday. There was talk of a similar demonstration at Busch Stadium before the start of the National League Championship Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants.