Filed under: Action, Midwest, Police, Repression, White Supremacy
From ReWyld StL
On Sunday, August 9th 2015 a small band of tight friends and down-as-fuck accomplices from all around the greater-Saint Louis area spent the day in Ferguson, MO on the one year anniversary of the murder of Michael Brown by now-former Ferguson Pig Darren Wilson. We sat down to discuss the events of August 9th &10th, 2015, twenty-four hours after a Police “state of emergency” was declared in the Saint Louis County municipality.
Names and sensitive information have been altered for the safety of our accomplices. What follows is not their story, but an account of the day’s events as experienced by several close friends and communicated by those they interacted with.
*** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Leone: So, where should we start?
Joan: Maybe with the Mike Brown 1 year memorial silent march in Canfield, Sunday morning August 9th.
Leone: Right, the march from Canfield Green to Saint Marks Church.
Joan: For background, Canfield is the neighborhood where Mike Brown was murdered by ex-Ferguson pig Darren Wilson a year ago.
Leone: It was hot. Very hot.
Joan: The weather was hot, but the temperature of the crowd was super-cool. Like, this time last year the pigs had barricaded both ends of Canfield so you couldn’t get in or out at all except on foot.
Leone: It was almost tame that morning. Very “organized” and heavily peace-policed by clergy and NGO professional activist peace police. This year the cops had the back end of Canfield blocked off so you could get in but you could only get in and out one way.
Joan: It also seemed like there were a lot more locals there and not nearly as many out-of-towners as this time last year. The energy was very different. It was pretty somber, but not really in a “sad” way. Just serious, almost like at a wake.
Leone: It felt to me sort of like the group luncheons or dinners some folks have right after a funeral. Not super-sad, but yeah, somber; that word feels right.
Joan: There were a few hundred people there. I remember seeing a lot of white men wearing “I Am Mike Brown” and “I Am Kajieme Powell” t-shirts. I felt like that was very inappropriate.
Leone: It was like that in StL at the rally turned-protest turned-mini riot in StL after the Zimmerman verdict came down “not guilty”. A whole buncha white people wore “I Am Trayvon” shirts, or held signs that said that. It just seemed like they sort of missed the point about racism and police, legal and vigilante violence.
Joan: Well I liked what Mike Brown Sr. said, something like “People ask me about my son, and they ask me how I feel. That’s a stupid question. Ask me how my day is going, today”
Leone: That was powerful. It seemed really strange to me that the Nation of Islam guy who got to speak kept saying over and over how “this movement is not an anti-police movement”. That got really mixed reactions from the crowd – no outbursts, but you could still tell a lotta people had mixed feelings about what he said, and others had very strong feelings one way or the other…
Joan: I think people were just trying to be respectful to Mike Brown’s family, but yeah you could feel it in the crowd.
Leone: Like when that guy said all that pro-cop stuff, waves of intense emotion washed over the crowd; you could feel lit. Like when it rains over a puddle and all the little ripples overlap and affect each other and little patterns form. It was kinda like that.
Joan: There were a lot of clergy there, too.
Leone: Wasn’t the Billy Graham church there?
Joan: Yes, they had a camper and were handing out pamphlets and water as the silent march passed Canfield onto West Florrisant. It’s like they had this chokepoint set up for marketing their religion.
Leone: That thing was amazing, some straight “robots in disguise” Transformers shit! It was like an RV that converts into a great big stage. Must cost hella money…
Nancie: We saw that stuff later on that night, too. There was an evangelical group there doing like a tent revival thing at the intersection.
Leone: The Billy Graham decepticon thing was gone, but in its place they had set up a series of pop-up canopies and had some people in there dancing, laying hands and praising the lord & stuff.
Nancie: Some older folks, mostly older Black men and a whole bunch of white people, were really getting into it.
Leone: It seemed though like it was entirely run by white people. But a lot of peoples on the street weren’t happy with it, at all.
Nancie: Right, I heard a lot of people from the neighborhood saying “Billy Graham’s racist” and “We don’t need a thing from them”, “We don’t want no papers or their racist water, either”.
Leone: I heard a few peoples suggest going over and “slappin’ a whiteboy” at the revival.
Nancie: I didn’t feel comfortable with some of that.
Leone: I noticed some of the white folk around us wasn’t comfortable with some of that, either. Some of them moved on down the sidewalk.
Nancie: But there were also Black men and women arguing with the people saying that stuff, saying “that’s no good, that’s not cool”
Leone: Tensions were high out there that afternoon.
Nancie: Well, that evening it was so humid, like more than the weather; the air was thick with tension and pent up frustration & rage. First we went to Saint Marks Church, where Dr. Cornell West was going to speak later that evening. We never quite made it to see Cornell West, though.
Leone: Yeah, I mean you can see him on YouTube…
Nancie: We saw him downtown last fall, anyway. It felt like a lot of theater, honestly; like a ritualized “passing of the torch” of civil rights leadership sorta thing.
Leone: It was pageantry. I wasn’t sure how to feel about the whole thing for a few days after, last fall.
Nancie: There was a nice BBQ going at Saint Marks though, and the JuiceMaster/Mike Brown Dollars thing…
Leone: It was like a community BBQ thing, I think. That’s so weird how they got those Mike Brown Dollars circulating to get people into patronizing local small businesses. Some of those small local businesses are capitalizing the shit outta what’s happening in Ferguson.
Nancie: Yeah, anyway it was all clergy and not-for-profit types at Saint Marks…
Leone: I think they were doing a nonviolent civil disobedience training or something…?
Nancie: Right. So we refilled our water and checked out the Ferguson Police station, which had been the focal point of the past few months’ protests. It was totally dead there, I think there was a drumline crew or something like that there resting under a tent, so we trekked over to Canfield and West Florissant Ave., the neighborhood where Mike Brown got gunned down last year.
Leone: We figured if there was going to be any action on the streets, it’d be near where the QuickTrip gas station got sacked last August.
Nancie: Wow. It’s like, one year to the day since that happened, right!
Joan: Remember last year when some friends of ours did that thing under the burnt out QuickTrip overhang about a week after Mike B. was killed? They were serving tons and TONS of food and water to thousands of people for free all night, and they had like a little zine table set up. By the end of the night I don’t think it was even the same people running those tables, so many volunteers just jumped in when needed so other volunteers could go hit the streets, enjoy the protest and the endless parade of solidarity, or go fight the cops up by the National Guard staging area. It was very fluid.
Leone: That was dope!
Nancie: I miss that party atmosphere from those late nights last year sharing food and water bottles with all the folks we didn’t know. Sometimes it felt like it’d never end.
Joan: All the conversations with strangers, and finding out things I thought not that many people felt like, all these other people I was meeting for the first time felt similarly. That was really deep. I miss that so much.
Nancie: That’s what we came out to do, though.
Leone: Just be there, present, in the moment; sharing space with other peoples in the struggle.
Joan: That felt so good, so right. It was like, this outrage – I hate when it’s called a “tragedy”, like it was an “incident” or could have been avoided with some sensitivity training or something. It was an outrage, but it brought so many people together. I dunno.
Leone: We never really got to Canfield though.
Nancie: Yeah, we got to the site of the old burnt out QuickTrip and it was so surreal. The QT has since been bulldozed and the lot is surrounded by a tall chainlink fence.
Leone: That fence looked like it’s almost been ripped down a few times in a couple spots…
Nancie: But it was like being hit by a brick wall, seeing that spot all leveled. There was even grass coming up through the concrete, gravel and debris. It was hardly recognizable. The only way I knew where we were at was the Canfield sign.
What really struck me was that the old concrete block barriers that used to line the QT lot were all gone. We used to sit on those blocks to rest and stand on them to get a better view, or we’d hide behind them when Ferguson PD fired rubber bullets and threw flashbangs at us during the HUGE nighttime street parties and battles with the police last fall on West Florissant.
Leone: I noticed a lotta the tags and murals that were up the last time I was in Ferguson were power-washed away, especially around the foot bridge on W. Florissant crossing the creek.
Nancie: Yeah, but there was A LOT of new graffiti up in the neighborhood, too, like those posters with the Bakunin quote on them, and the black rose memorials…
Leone: I saw that poster and got a picture of it. The Bakunin quote read “The passion for destruction is a creative passion, too” and then at the bottom it said “…Toward another year of creativity. Ferguson, Missouri, August 10, 2014”.
Nancie: There was also lots of ‘FTP’ and ‘Fuck 12’ tags up on the walls and utility boxes and shit around the neighborhood.
Leone: It’s really amazing how the neighborhood has changed. Something I noticed was the young people don’t wait anymore for any organized rally or call-to-action to mobilize themselves or take autonomous action.
When we arrived yesterday evening there were maybe 500 people total spread out on both sides of the street for about three blocks of W. Florissant. Most people were on the sidewalk or the parking lots of the businesses on the strip, but in the median there were already about two dozen young black men and women, a drum kit, and two cars. They were waving a red, black & green flag, dancing to Lil’ Boosie’s & chanting “fuck 12” and firing up the people on each side of the street to join them. Every few minutes another person or two ran into the median to join us.
Nancie: They were playing Lil Boosie on continuous loop and shouting “Fuck The Police” evening. When they started getting frustrated so few people were getting in the streets with them we decided to join them out in the median and were greeted with TONS of hugs and “thank you for being here”s.
Leone: Then we loaded the drum kit up in the back of a truck and started marching out of the median and into the streets. As I remember it, for a long time it was just a couple dozen of us together. Some folks on bikes blocked the traffic when the protest cars needed to change lanes or we had to go around a riot police line. We had a couple small standoffs with the cops, who threatened us with some ordinance violation, but each time we just got back out in the streets a block or so further down.
Nancie: And there was that fucking drone!
Leone: Ugh! The drone…
Joan: There was a drone at the Mike Brown memorial in Canfield earlier that morning, too. I think there was some uncertainty whether or not it was a police or mainstream media drone.
Leone: A few people said that there was a County cop who walked up behind the stage Mike Brown Sr. and the clergy were sitting on and threw that drone up in the air.
Nancie: Do you throw drones in the air?
Joan: Who knows. I feel like it was super disrespectful though that anyone flew that drone at the morning memorial. I remember first seeing it during the 4 ½ moments of silence for Mike Brown, and I think they might have launched it then.
Leone: I think you’re right. I remember seeing it rise above the stage during the moment of silence. I don’t know if that’s when the police launched it, but that makes sense.
Joan: There were so many people in that morning crowd, and everyone was amazingly respectful of the full 4 ½ moments of silence, except whoever launched that drone. It flew really low over the crowd and all you could hear was its motors whirring.
Leone: It was like that later in the evening on Aug 9th, too. The drone was flying so low you could easily have knocked it out the sky with a rock. Some folks were joking about doing it.
Joan: Were they “joking” for sure?
Nancie: Well that evening, August 9th I remember the sky was so beautiful right before it started storming! It was like the sky was letting us know it was gonna storm, but there was a beautiful opening on the horizon, like the storm was inviting us to be strong.
I don’t remember exactly why, but a huge number of people who had been onlookers from the sidewalk suddenly flooded into the streets right after the police rolled out from the most recent confrontation they had with us. It went from a couple dozen of us to maybe a hundred, or more. It was almost like last year when hundreds or thousands of us at a time controlled the streets and the police couldn’t shut us down.
Joan: The view of the sky is so beautiful from West Florissant. The street’s really wide there and the low buildings and treelines act to really open up the sky and make it look so big!
Nancie: Yeah, some guy with a bullhorn pointed out how beautiful the sky was and directed the crowd to all look at it. I think Leone tried to get a picture with his phone, but it’s like the sky just opened up suddenly and started pouring rain.
Leone: What was cool was the drone was flying right above us while we were in the streets and got caught in the storm with us. It was having a lot of trouble staying in the air. At one point I heard it and looked up and it was tottering by the overhang we’d taken shelter under, and barely avoided crashing into a pole in the strip mall parking lot.
Joan: That’s hilarious. Fuckin’ drone.
Nancie: We were under there for a while, and watched most of the cops get in their cars and SUVs to take shelter from the storm.
Leone: There was actually still a lot of folks in the middle of W. Florissant holding the streets, when suddenly some folks taking shelter around us got really excited because a buncha people ran up on the strip mall across the street, took advantage of the storm and sudden demobilization of the police, and started looting.
Nancie: That was cool!
Leone: I know, right! I totally didn’t see that coming.
Nancie: Good street tactics.
Leone: The reactions of the people around us were pretty mixed. A couple peoples asked to borrow my phone to call a ride outa there, and some were criticizing the police for “allowing” that to happen. But some of the folks around us were cheering for the folks across the street.
One guy I’d had a really good conversation with earlier in the streets, call him “Germaine”, got into it with an older woman who was shouting some respectability politic bullshit about the looting, I think she was trying to shame the folks looting. He defended what has happening across the street, saying something like “You know the police and this racist system value stuff, their property, more than our lives, like we’re disposable. If our lives are so disposable, we oughta gladly dispose of their stuff.”
Nancie: It was raining so hard. Some folks were talking about conspiracies and weather control technology. One guy even speculated “they” might make a tornado go down West Florissant.
Leone: Yeah, and then I think the police started getting out of their cars and fucking with people. They pulled a few cars up at the strip mall and issues a dispersal order. Some people started shouting about the cops pepper-spraying someone across the street. A lot of people started leaving and I think we left around that time.
Nancie: Yeah, we had a long way to go in that storm, and we both got soaked.
Leone: I had to dry out my cellphone and I think I had about a gallon of water in my clothes.
What I noticed on the way home was even before the rain stopped there were a lot of people out in the streets, walking on the sidewalks chanting “Fuck 12! Fuck 12!” or blasting one version or another of “Fuck The Police” in their cars; that’s become so normalized, now. Then when I got home the first thing I saw online was that the police shot another young Black man in Ferguson.
I stayed up all night trying to find out details. Some people said he was killed, or that there were two people shot. I fell asleep sometime before sunrise and woke up to learn his name had been announced. His name is Tyrone Harris, Jr.
Nancie: They shot him that night. It was still the one year anniversary, and they shot another Black man on the anniversary of murdering Mike Brown.
Joan: The details were really hard to get straight. I was following on social media.
Leone: Yeah, there were all these nonviolent civil disobedience things the next day.
Nancie: On August 10th. Getting arrested on purpose type stuff.
Leone: Right, and social media and text alert stuff was pretty crammed up with a lot of reports about those actions.
Pari: A lot of our friends got arrested at some of those actions; some got hurt.
Joan: It was frustrating how hard it was to find out details about Tyrone.
Leone: I felt like the only thing to do was to go back to West Florissant again on the 10th. Things were so different there.
Nancie: There were less protesters, more clergy and legal observers, fewer onlookers and partiers. But even though there were fewer people overall, of the people out there on the streets on the 10th a lot more of them were being openly militant. More of people were masked up, wearing fatigues or carrying red, black and green flags.
Leone: There was even a guy carrying a big black flag. Some peoples got up on the roof of a boarded up building and were waving it, mocking the police who were wobbling by in their heavy pads and riot gear.
There were also a bunch of Nation of Islam guys standing around together in suits, telling folks to “calm down”. I think they might have been guarding the businesses in the strip mall.
Pari: I feel like the cops maybe had some sort of orders not to let things get “out of control” or past a certain level.
Leone: Well, maybe until after the sun was down. Things changed as it got darker.
Pari: Right. I just felt angry and like a lot of people wanted to take it further. I wanted to take it further, too.
Leone: There were a few times when we were in the streets confronting the riot police, pressed right up against them, that a lot of pissed of peoples could have easily attacked the police cars and SUVs and probably got away with it.
Joan: Some of that may have happened, actually.
Leone: Really? I didn’t see or hear any of that…
Pari: There was this guy standing in front of me on the line when the riot pigs pushed us up out of the street and onto the curb, and then some “officer friendly” types relieved the riot pigs and were palling around with the clergy; this guy was right in officer “friendly”’s face screaming “Fuck 12” and “FTP: Kill a pig!” and he was doing this literally about two inches from the pig’s face, I think he even spit in the pig’s face. The pigs didn’t lift a finger to any of that. I liked that guy!
Leone: Yeah, the police just stood there and took that, right! But the moment someone crossed the white line between the curb and the street the riot cops were on them. On them.
Nancie: I thought it was funny, somehow a bullhorn got passed around the crowd, and someone got on and started saying “why we got these white lines on the streets? We need some BLACK lines! Some red, black and green lines!” and a woman in the crowd shouted back “they put those white lines there to control us, like the white supremacy.”
Leone: Yeah I really liked that, too.
I noticed the Nation of Islam, clergy, and officer friendly types were all kinda working together to keep us on the curb or the sidewalk, but then there were more militant peoples out there who was trying to strategize playing cat’n’mouse games with the police while we waited for more people to arrive. Eventually their strategy actually won out and got us back into the streets. We started marching en masse along the curb, crossing at crosswalks, and leading the riot cops around in circles, exhausting them under all that heavy gear. They were so sweaty and smelled so damn bad when you got close to their line of shields. Idiots.
Nancie: That’s funny. I didn’t notice that.
Leone: That time we marched straight through the street, blocked traffic and went right into the police staging area and disrupted whatever they were doing, I got really close to their lines a few times. A lot of people did. They had sweat all over their face shields and stank, bad.
Pari: Kinda like pigs…
Pari: I left shortly after that confrontation. It was fun, though!
Leone: Oh yeah, you missed the old white supremacist dudes with machine guns: the Oath Keepers. They showed up later. They were walking around taking close-up pictures of people with high-quality cameras. Before we saw the guns and fatigues you coulda thought they were media or something. They acted like media.
Nancie: Yeah, later we found out there were there to protect the InfoWars people.
Leone: Ugh… Alex Jones conspiracy nuts. They’re racist as hell! Maybe those were the guys with cameras? InfoWars?
Sometimes people try to show me conspiracy stuff from that website. I can’t even look at it. They’re hella racist, anti-gay and anti-immigrant, and misogynist. Disgusting.
Joan: What about that 12-year-old girl who got arrested?
Pari: I’m not sure what happened to her. That’s horrible…
Nancie: At least no one got shot that night, like the night before.
Leone: Right, but they mass arrested a bunch of people.
Joan: Later we learned that Belmar, the police chief in the county, permitted the Oath Keepers to patrol W. Florissant.
Nancie: It got heated. The police started pushing and shoving, tried to snatch & grab some people and attempted a mass arrest, and then they threw some kind of grenades at protesters and fired rubber bullets. The cops chased people all the way to Canfield and fired off chemical weapons in the neighborhood.
Leone: It’s almost as if one year later, after they killed Mike Mike, the police haven’t learned a damn thing in Ferguson. Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same over and over but expecting different consequences?
Leone: The worst thing about that is the realization that even if things die down again, if the clergy and white “ally” types and Black liberals and NGO professional activist-y types wear us down again, the police are going to kill again, and again, and again; and they’ll keep on keepin’ on killing us and we’re gonna be right back in those streets, tearin’ it up with the police… pigs.
Pari: It was scary when I was going home, there were some white guys in a car that shouted out the window “hey, go home; you’re white!” and I’m not actually “white”, I’m indigenous – and they are colonizers – so I shouted back at them “No, you go home, my people were here first!”
Joan: They’re trying to escalate: the Oath Keepers, the cops, random racists in a bar in Ferguson or in the break room at your work or shouting at you walking home from their cars. They work like this: passive aggressive escalation, so they can always deny it, gaslight you and make like it’s your fault.
Leone: I didn’t know that happened. That’s crazy!
Nancie: That’s cute. Colonizers.
Pari: Hey, guys?
Pari: Fuck The Police!
All : Fuck The Police.