The protests in St.Louis this past Monday were the culmination of “Ferguson October,” four days of activism and civil disobedience sparked by the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed, 18-year-old black man, by a white police officer on Aug. 9 in the suburb of Ferguson, MO.
Former mayor Brian Fletcher loves Ferguson.
He brags about it, rattles off historical facts about it and he feels the urge to stick up for the city and its people. Right now, he says people are tired of the constant protesting, tired of the noise and tired of feeling intimidated.
That’s the exact reaction many protest leaders said they are hoping for.
It’s been nearly 70 days since Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown, 18, and he still remains free and uncharged of any crimes.
Since then, protests have sprung up around the region, spreading most recently to downtown St. Louis, St. Louis University, Webster Groves and also the Shaw neighborhood, where crowds have gathered to protest the fatal shooting of another teenager Vonderitt Myers Jr. by St. Louis police.
In one incident, video cameras captured a heated back-and-forth between protesters and Cardinals fans outside of Busch Stadium as Cardinal fans shouted “Let’s Go Darren Wilson”.
The epicenter of the unrest is in Ferguson, and Mayor Fletcher, like many others, says it’s hard to remember what it felt like to live in Ferguson before the city became infamous.
On a typical day in Ferguson, there’s a persistent group of picketers along South Florissant Road, in front of the police station, holding signs with slogans such as “Justice for All,” and “Black Lives Matter.” Aside from the noise, there have been shots fired, attempted arson and some instances of looting.
“People around here were sympathetic at first. People wanted to know why was he shot and why so many times,” Fletcher said. “There wasn’t a problem until people started feeling scared to go to the brew house and scared to go to the farmers market.”
The question one may have to ask is, “who are these concerned people/residents?” Fletcher, who is white, also acknowledges that persistent racial tension underlies Ferguson’s new reality.
“I think quite frankly, Caucasians are intimidated by protesters who think that if they can make Caucasians feel uncomfortable, they can change the rules. And it’s working,” Fletcher said.
A number of black people also feel uncomfortable. Pam Peters has lived in Ferguson for 37 years. “I don’t like the way people are talking about Ferguson now,” she said. “We are good people. We are tired of the protests.”
Peters said she didn’t think Ferguson would ever go back to how it was before Brown’s shooting.
“We just have way too many young people who are trying to stir the pot,” she said. “If police stop them for no reason, that’s not right. But, not to beat a dead horse, some of them bring it on themselves.”
Marie Ellison, who is white, said she supported the protests.
“When we’re talking about injustice, this should be everyone’s cause,” she said. But Ellison acknowledged that she’s worn out.
“It’s hard to sleep. It’s hard to eat because of all of this going on around us,” she said. “No matter who you are, if you’re from Ferguson, you’re now looked at as the bad guy.”
But for some, discomfort is exactly the point. Alexis Templeton, 20, a Ferguson resident for 13 years, has emerged as one of the protest leaders.
“My response to the people who are tired of us is that you’ll be uncomfortable until we stop being uncomfortable,” she said. “We (protesters) have been uncomfortable for years. You’ve been uncomfortable for a matter of days and now you feel it should end. That’s not fair.”
By Tamara El(@MwiliHakalu)