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Holly Wagner (Ph.D., 2014)
"It's been a
whirlwind since I moved
to Saint Louis and I have hit the ground running. I
really can't imagine a
better place to be than right where I am. As sad and
disappointing as the
Ferguson tragedy has been, my hope is that it also
provides us an avenue to
take the important steps necessary to come
together and work to raise
critical awareness and promote change within this
community. UMSL is about 2
miles from where Michael Brown was killed. The wound
is huge right now. In many
ways, it's been there for a long time. And now that
it's wide open again maybe
we can somehow move toward healing, first in this
community and then a broader,
systemic scale. I've been honored to work with the
students and the community
who will be part of that change. I'm also very aware
that it's one step, one
person at a time. And, it is so worth it." Thanks
From the St. Louis Post Dispatch
October 11, 2014
CLAYTON • A rain-soaked crowd of several hundred people marched in downtown Clayton on Friday afternoon, kicking off this weekend’s Ferguson October rallies and protests.
Hours later, a similar crowd
took to the streets of Ferguson
for a candlelight march and protest across from the police
drums and chanting into the night as well as blocking West
Several protesters used bullhorns to direct the crowd, some
asked protesters to
move to south St. Louis where a police officer killed a
teenager earlier this
week after the teen opened fire on him.
The Clayton march began outside
St. Louis County Prosecuting
Attorney Robert McCulloch’s office. Activists have demanded
that McCulloch step
aside in the Michael Brown case.
Clayton police had barricaded
Carondelet Avenue between
Central and Bemiston avenues in anticipation of the event.
Officers on bicycles at the
front and back of the crowd
escorted the protesters as the march began. However, minutes
into the event,
the protesters stopped in the middle of the intersection of
Bonhomme avenues, blocking traffic. They chanted, “Hey, hey,
ho, ho, these
killer cops have got to go!”
Others shouted, “Who are we?
The crowd grew to about 400
people and eventually blocked
the intersection of Central and Carondelet avenues in front
of the county
The few police in sight did not
interfere; several officers
stood outside the Buzz Westfall Justice Center and observed
the crowd. Brooklyn College student Ashely Agbasoga, 22, of
New York, drove through the night to get to Clayton for the
weekend protests with a professor, his partner and another
"This is the epicenter of
the movement against policy brutality," Agbasoga said,
adding that he planned to be active in Ferguson October
events through the weekend.
"This is the epicenter of the movement against policy brutality," Agbasoga said, adding that he planned to be active in Ferguson October events through the weekend.
Brian Crawley, 26, of Wellston,
was among those gathered in
the street. He said he hoped that county leaders recognized
that marchers were
serious in their demands, including their call to end racial
“I have two daughters,” Crawley
said. “I don’t want them
growing up in a society like this.”
Many in the crowd carried
umbrellas, some marked with
slogans such as “Ferguson is Forever.”
The marchers drew curious
Clayton workers, who huddled
outside office buildings to watch.
Before the protest began in
Clayton, some marchers clustered
beneath tents set up on a county-owned parking lot north of
the Buzz Westfall
A table under one tent was
staffed by Holly Wagner, a member
of the counseling department at the University of
Missouri-St. Louis. Wagner
had brought storage bins containing sand and plastic
In another of the incongruous,
if not bizarre, incidents
that have sometimes marked the protests, Wagner handed out
the toy animals to
adult protesters seated at a table. They manipulated the
figures under the
guidance of Wagner and other graduate students inside
plastic bins full of
“We wanted to create a space
where people can show with
these small toys what they are experiencing,” Wagner
explained. “It’s a
creative expression technique.”
After about two hours of
circling blocks and occasionally
stopping at intersections, most of the marchers dispersed.
At one point after
the march ended, at least three men shouted different
messages from bullhorns.
One ordered the crowd to go to the Shaw neighborhood of St.
Louis, where the
teenager was fatally shot earlier in the week. Another man
protesters would likely be facing off at some point this
weekend with Darren
Nearly two dozen people donned
bright yellow vests and kept
mostly to the edges of the march, keeping watchful eyes on
the direction of
protesters, traffic and the tone of the crowd. They were
part of a group called
Jobs with Justice, but acting as “marshals,” at the protest,
McPhearson who led the group.
They had met several times for
training sessions earlier in
the week to discuss ways to de-escalate situations and keep
the peace, he said.
“We know that tensions can
rise, and we want to keep
everyone safe in the tradition of Dr. King,” McPhearson
The same message urging peace
among demonstrators was the theme of a press conference St.
Louis County Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton, organized
Friday before the march in Clayton. About a dozen pastors,
along with black and white police officers, gathered with
him outside the County Council Chambers to pray that the
weekend's events would be peaceful.
Among them was the state Rep.
Tommie Pierson, of north St. Louis County. "You have the
right to protest, but you don't have the right to burn my
house down or the businesses in our community," Pierson said.
Former Missouri state Rep.
Betty Thompson recalled her days
marching in the South with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.
“The only way for
justice and peace to prevail is through nonviolence,” she
Stenger, who is running against
Republican Rick Stream in
the Nov. 4 election for county executive, also called for
calm. “The only way
to move forward is through peace and open discussion,” he
Police have said they expect
that Ferguson October events
could lead to possibly hostile protests this weekend,
especially in the wake of
Wednesday’s death of Vonderrit Myers Jr., 18, who was shot
by a St. Louis
police officer in the Shaw neighborhood.
Late in the afternoon, the
family of Brown, the black teen
shot to death on Aug. 9 by a white police officer in
Ferguson, issued a
statement encouraging peaceful protests.
“While we respect every
citizen’s right to free expression,
it is our hope that those coming to Ferguson to protest the
shooting of our son
this weekend do so peacefully and lawfully.”
“We understand first-hand the
powerless frustration felt by
people of all walks of life regarding their interactions
with law enforcement.
And for that reason, as Michael Brown’s parents, we ask that
those coming to
show support for our son do so within the law,” the
Around 9 p.m., a group of 100
or so people marched about two
miles from West Florissant Avenue to the police department.
candles and others a mirrored casket. Organizers said the
“Day of the Dead”
march was meant to honor victims of police violence.
By 11 p.m. the crowd had
doubled, and used bullhorns and
drums to chant before a line of St. Louis County and
Ferguson police officers,
who formed a line across the entrance to the police
Protesters urged each other to
abide by police commands to
“step back,” as they echoed across a loudspeaker so they
could all be available
for marches planned for Saturday.
There were no reports of
violence or arrests at either
Later in the night, some
protesters relocated to the Shaw
neighborhood, where Myers was killed. They gathered in the
street but moved to
the sidewalk when asked by police and then marched through
Police said there were no arrests, and no injuries or damage
Christine Byers, Leah Thorsen and Lisa Brown of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.Christine Byers is a crime reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter.
Last Modified: 10/16/14