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Communities Organize After Grand Jury Decision, Vow Nonviolent Protest in Ferguson & Beyond

Communities Organize After Grand Jury Decision, Vow Nonviolent Protest in Ferguson & Beyond

FERGUSON, MO — At 8PM CT, Ferguson Action issued the following statement in response to the St. Louis County Grand Jury’s failure to levy charges against Darren Wilson for the August 9th killing of Michael Brown Jr.

“We are devastated that the grand jury has failed to indict Darren Wilson in the killing of Mike Brown,” said Montague Simmons Chair of The Organization for Black Struggle.  “All this community wanted was simple justice. Wilson killed an unarmed man and should face a trial by jury. Instead, he benefited from a highly unusual grand jury process, led by a prosecutor with whom the local community pleaded to step down or be removed from the case. Mike Brown was a young man with his entire life ahead of him. He could have been any of us. In fact, since his murder, we have seen more police killings of unarmed Black people. In the last week alone, the killings of Akai Gurley in New York City and Tamir Rice in Cleveland have served as stark reminders that the problems with policing in Ferguson are rampant throughout the country.”

“In this moment, we all have a choice to make,” said Tef Poe, Co-Founder of Hands Up United, “We can stand by while police and their apologists in prosecutors’ offices and city halls continue to kill, harass and criminalize our communities – or stand up in this moment to demand that our elected officials lead and finally deal with our broken policing system.”

“In Ferguson, St. Louis, and in cities throughout the country, people will be taking to the streets to demand justice for Mike Brown and an end to the nonstop criminalization of people of color by police,” said Michael McPherson Co-Chair of The Don’t Shoot Coalition, “As Americans we have a moral obligation, and a constitutionally guaranteed right, to stand up to injustice and oppression. Protest, including nonviolent civil disobedience, is a longstanding American tradition that has been indispensable in transforming this country for the better – especially in gaining equal standing for communities of color. We have every intention of fulfilling this commitment in our protests, and we demand that our rights be respected.”

“In preparation of exercising the right to air our grievances, we have trained hundreds of people in non-violent direct action,” said artist and St. Louis community organizer Damon Davis. “We have organized people around the country to stand up to this injustice that was, sadly, so predictable. This grand jury decision will not deter us. It is a start, not an end. We are all Mike Brown, and Ferguson is everywhere. We need a justice system that protects us all, and we will direct our moral outrage into nonstop, nonviolent action to win meaningful change.”

“This refusal, once again, to ensure Black Americans and the family of Mike Brown the due process granted by our citizenship should be every Americans call to action to demand genuine changes for this failing system,” said Ashley Yates, Co-Creator of Millennial Activists United. “Racial prejudice has no place in society and definitely should not be tolerated in policing or judicial process. The time for change is now.”

While a St. Louis Grand Jury Returns Decision in Mike Brown Case, Ferguson Speaks About Systemic Change

FERGUSON, MO — A St. Louis County Grand Jury returned Thursday and with them a decision as to whether or not to levy charges against Darren Wilson for the August 9th shooting of Michael Brown Jr. Despite having the Grand Jury’s decision, St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, for logistical purposes, has opted to announce the jurors’ conclusions on Sunday morning. Area schools have responded by announcing closures for next week, and over the next 48 hours, the media, who has once again descended upon Ferguson, MO, will repeat iterations of the same lede, variations of hysterical accounts, or ominous foreshadows of impending violence. Few will ask how locals about their desires to create a more equitable Ferguson and even fewer will provide a platform to those who already laying the foundation for that prospect. We set out to fill this void.

Last week, with support from Hands Up United, Sparrow’s Andy Stepanian and Jeff Wirth of Burning Hearts Media created the video communiqué above. This 9-minute clip provides a surreal temperature check of what it is truly like during these uncertain hours on the ground.

In an effort to forego our own analysis, and keep the focus on the community of Ferguson, attached below are statements from the community members and activists we interviewed. Please consider sharing their words this weekend in place of the hyperbolic headlines that will otherwise occupy your timelines:

“I wish that they would have did the right thing. I wish that . . . This was a golden opportunity for our politicians to be on the right side of history, but they chose not to. So for me, man, it’s like . . . I’ve always felt if it’s “fuck us,” then it’s “fuck you” toward the system.” —Tef Poe, Artist, Activist & Cofounder of HandsUpUnited.org

“Until the Governor chooses to truly address the systemic issues that the murder of Michael Brown brought to the surface for many Americans, no press release or commission board will truly help this community move forward from this tragedy” — Ashley Yates, Co-creator of Millennial Activists United

“For nearly 100 days, the preponderance of violence has come from the hands of police. We have proven we can peacefully assemble and function at a protest, can the police say the same?” —Community Organizer Damon Davis

“You’re killing young, black youth, my age, in the streets. We ’90s babies, ’80s babies. I don’t give a fuck how many guns you got, none of that. We react off our feelings.” —Community Organizer, Low Key

“Governer Nixon’s choice to act unilaterally in this police plan is a slap in the face to every protestor who has worked tirelessly over the past 90+ days to reach peaceful solutions.” —Taurean Russell, Cofounder of HandsUpUnited.org

“If Governor Nixon wants to instruct police as to how to respond to protestors he need not look any further than the rules of engagement issued by the Don’t Shoot Coalition” — Montague Simmons, Coordinator for The Organization for Black Struggle

“I’m not here to try to validate the justice system, because there’s a lot of changes that need to occur. But the indictment of Darren Wilson is the first step of many that need to take place. We got to get him indicted first.” — David Whitt, The Canfield Watchmen

“Nobody is asking for Darren Wilson to be killed. Nobody’s asking for him to be shot in the street. Nobody is asking for him to be strung up, like we have been for every decade of every century that we’ve been here. We’re asking for him to be charged for the crime that he committed in front of witnesses. There’s a system that’s in place. You created the system. You enforce the system every day. We’re saying that guy should be included in the system. That’s all.” — Jesse Williams, Activist and Actor

“When they actually offer something that stares in the face of anti-black sentiments that exist in this country, when we actually start to talk to each other and hear each other, and we don’t throw the race card term around, we don’t throw the racism word around, this innocuous word that no one knows what it means, when we actually sit down and we go, ‘No’ these systems that we have in place are anti-black. These policies that we have in place are anti-black. This shoot-first, ask-questions-later is anti-black. The way that we treat our black slain men and women in the media after they’ve been gunned down and can no longer speak for themselves is anti-black. When they throw that political bone, and we can actually address it and start to make change, then we’ll be satisfied” — Ashley Yates, Co-creator of Millennial Activists United