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Holly Wagner (Ph.D., 2014)
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
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 department, beating drums and
chanting into the night as well as blocking West Florissant
Avenue. 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
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 Bemiston and Bonhomme
avenues, blocking traffic. They chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho,
these killer cops have got to go!”
Others shouted, “Who are we? Mike Brown!”
The crowd grew to about 400 people and
eventually blocked the intersection of Central and
Carondelet avenues in front of the county government center.
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 student.
"This is the epicenter of the movement
against policy brutality," Agbasoga said, adding that he
planned to be active in Ferguson October events through
"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 profiling.
“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 Justice Center.
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 animals.
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
“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 warned that protesters would likely be
facing off at some point this weekend with Darren Wilson
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, said
Michael 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 said.
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 said.
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
“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. Some carried 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 department.
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
There were no reports of violence or arrests at
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 the neighborhood. Police
said there were no arrests, and no injuries or damage were
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: 10/30/14