Reporters Notebook from Ferguson:

People Speak Out About Getting Justice for Michael Brown

August 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


In the afternoon of Saturday, August 23, the revolutionaries who had come to stand with the people in Ferguson held a program at a library in North St. Louis: "The Murder of Michael Brown—These Horrors Must Stop!" Word got out through fliers distributed in Ferguson and from calling the list of hundreds of people who the revolutionaries had met in the previous two weeks being out in the community, especially out on W. Florissant St. About 30 people gathered to hear Carl Dix speak and participate in discussion of police murder, the October Month of Resistance, and revolution.

After the event, dozens of people from different places, including Atlanta, Detroit, Houston and Chicago gathered in a St. Louis park before going out to various places and events in Ferguson to spread the word about the Month of Resistance and/or to distribute Revolution newspaper.

Later that night there was a speak-out and a march along Florissant Street in Ferguson. A reporter for Revolution/ interviewed people throughout the day and into the night. The following are from these interviews:


"My family told me not to come"

Tell me why you came to Ferguson:

I came from Kentucky with some friends. I came because, well, there was a generation that had civil rights movement and we had leaders. And I feel that there's a lack of leadership amongst our generation. And I wanted to figure out how I could be a part of the solution versus sitting at home blogging about it or talking about it amongst friends: actually coming and forming an alliance with people from all over the world who are here and seeing what we can do about the situation not only here but like on a grander scale because it happens everywhere. And a lot of times this stuff goes on and we don't even hear about it. These things go on a lot more frequently than we know. And that is pretty much why I came. Taking a stance on something....

Did you come with a group?

I came with two people who are childhood friends who are a lot more active and radical than me. I just reached a point where I said "I'm done." That was pretty much it for me. The other friend who came with us ran for state legislature in Texas. So we have a mixture.

I've had some conversations with people here at the memorial site, and one woman my age said that this is our civil rights movement. And it's my understanding that the history here that there was some strife at one point but never really a stance that was taken during the civil rights movement—I don't know if that's really true. But she feels that this is their movement.

I thought it was good to bring attention to the situation. It's time to change. It has to change within the culture, within legislation, institutions; there are so many different things that need to be done. And I feel that we all have our roles.

Another reason I came is I think I am desensitized a bit, you become desensitized. And then in the back of my mind is "you know the police officer is going to get off." And I'm thinking why are we even going through this because he's going to get off. They're going to make up some excuse, or they're going to dig through (Mike Brown's) history and find out every bad thing he's ever done in life—as if no teen has ever been defiant or done something he shouldn't do, or that we haven't done something we shouldn't do— and vilify him. And that's how they get away with it. I was so frustrated, and when I got there it just kind of hit me in the gut, I was at the memorial site, and I said oh my god, this is a real thing. It's different than being on TV and seeing it on TV—it's different being here. And then also seeing the unity in the community. And people cooking and handing out free bottles of water or whatever. And I met people from all over.

How did you hear about Carl Dix speaking and about the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and the movement for revolution?

So my friend got your flier at the memorial site and said, "Do you want to go?" And I said, "Yes, I came here to be active and get involved" and you can't do that by sitting on a couch and watching TV.

What is Kentucky like as far as racism and things like police murder?

It depends on what area you are in. I live in Lexington and work in Louisville, and they're pretty nice cities. If you go out to the sticks, there's places I wouldn't feel comfortable going. There's places where there's active KKK. There's certain parts of Kentucky where if we go across the bridge and drive to Indiana—there's certain parts of Indiana where people have had crosses burned in their front yards. I have a friend who is from California and she moved to Indiana and she went out there and told one of our clients, "You need to get fertilizer for your ground" and all this and the woman realized she didn't know what happened and she was like, "Honey, they burned a cross in my yard."

In Lexington today it's the 20 year anniversary of a young man, Tony Sullivan, who was killed the same way Michael Brown was. It was a big deal.

We've had a lot of random shootings, whether it's the police, or whether it's black on black crime, or whatever you want to call it. There's too many young men dying.

My family told me not to come, "Don't go down there and start no trouble. Don't go down there and throw rocks at the police." (laughs) As if that was something I would do. They said, "Don't go down there. What are you going to accomplish by going down there?"

And what did you tell them?

What am I accomplishing by NOT going down there? What have you accomplished? What have you done? You know what I'm saying? Or, I love the counter-argument of, "Well we should stop killing ourselves." Well, you're right, but THAT has nothing to do with this situation. And let's say hypothetically that we do stop killing each other, the stereotype has always been that we have been less than. So it's not going to necessarily alleviate that stereotype. Because historically minorities have always been valued less, in the United States. It's not just in the United States but it's very pronounced here because it's a "black-white issue."


"My son was murdered by the Chicago police"

Why have you come here?

I came to support Ferguson on this well-done job, these protests. My son was murdered by the Chicago Police in [several years ago] in a routine traffic stop and I'm very inspired because I feel like what happened here should have happened there in Chicago, you know what I'm saying? We had a little protest but it was a small protest and it went away. These guys stood strong and are still standing strong so I came to support that. And I brought my boys as well. My 14-year-old and my 12-year-old representing Chicago. If we can get this officer arrested down here maybe we can get some officers arrested in Chicago. And all over. In other cities I don't know if they're doing it as bad as they're doing here but in Chicago they're shooting our kids down as well. So yeah, yeah.

And them babies! The babies came out and said we ain't taking this shit no more—and so if the babies came out, I had to come out.

What do you think of the so called peacekeepers here in Ferguson who are trying to get people to calm down?

Well, they police advocates anyway: so I don't mess with them just like I don't mess with the police.


"If you treat me that way I'm not going for it"

Why did you come here to Ferguson?

I'm originally from Harlem but now I am in Atlanta, Georgia and I came down with the crew. There are some people with Revolution Books and some people with other organizations and we just carpooled and came down here. I'm really, really interested in seeing change. I see there has been some changes made—there are people that are standing up and they are not taking some of the things that they used to let go by and they're not as passive as they were before. I think they're really getting serious about this mass incarceration and killing of our youth. Minority youth in particular. And the more that we stick together, this is how I feel, the more it'll work. If we can just, you know get together, combine and form unity and strength and let the system know that we're serious about this I think we can make tremendous progress and that's why I'm here.

What has most impressed you about what people have done here?

I was watching an interview and a correspondent was going around in the town of Ferguson and talking to people and asking them: How do they feel about Ferguson? What is the atmosphere like? What's your interaction with the police? And some of the people were like, you know I understand they have a job to do but it's the way that you talk to people, the way that you approach people. If you see me walking in the street you can say to me, can you do me a favor young man? Please walk on the sidewalk, I want you to be safe. But if you say to me, "Get your fucking ass outta the street," it's different. He say, the way you approach me is the way I approach you. If you treat me that way I'm not going for it.

So what I get is that people are like, "You don't intimidate me. I know who I am and I know what this movement is about and I know what I have to do and I'm not going to let you take your problems out on me." I see strength right there.

Are you involved with the October Month of Resistance?

Well the last two years I've been involved in protesting police brutality on different days in October, but I am really interested in this whole Month of Resistance.


Saturday Night Out on W. Florissant

Two middle-aged white people, the guy in a denim vest covered with biker badges, standing by their motorcycles observing everything.

What do you think about Michael Brown and what has happened?

Man: I thought it was terrible. He shouldn't have been shot. They have tasers... at least he would have had a chance.

Woman: This I our second or third time out here. I think he shouldn't have been shot. I also think he did do something wrong but it didn't call for that. I have once shoplifted myself. But he shouldn't have been shot. It's terrible. It's not going to stop. It's gonna have to be a whole injustice system changed. Because the whole mess of cops around the world have to change what they do.

The revolutionaries here are saying we need a whole new system...

Woman: We need a whole new system for a whole lot of reasons. We should also teach our youth. That is not always an easy challenge. We as parents want the best for our children. I don't know how to help them. Thank god mine are grown. But they still are a mess.

What about what the police have done?

Woman: It's terrible. They have done enough. They should back off, let people do what they got to do. There aren't many right here but (pointing up the street) they're up there. Tons. But we're not scared.


"It's a positive and uplifting thing"

Young Black artist who came with some people who drove to Ferguson from another city.

How did you happen to come here?

Revolution posted that they wanted people to go to Ferguson for the weekend. And some revolutionary communists in my city asked me "You want to go?" "Hell yeah." And I'm not a communist myself but I do appreciate them and the values of's just people, when you say you're a communist, people misconstrue it and say "Oh no. No!" (laughs) But they good people. Probably the best people I've ever met but people get it misconstrued. So we're out here because we don't like the way they're representing the whole Ferguson situation in the media as a negative thing when it's really something positive. It's a positive and uplifting thing. If you look around you see things about Mike Brown on everything. It's obviously making a big move and it's a big deal and we decided to come out here so it doesn't lose momentum, to keep it going, because maybe the people of Ferguson are getting a little tired.

You have a shirt that has "Rosewood" printed on it—did you wear it to say something?

I'm thinking of Rosewood. There they (white racists) burned the whole place down. They got rid of it. And then they tried to erase the history. Hopefully what happened there won't happen here.


"It was the straw that broke the camel's back"

Black woman in her 30's

I been out here every night. I just don't understand them (staring at the cops lined up across the street looking real mad). The Black cops. What they think they doing? The Black police that are over there. They need to be over here because they on the wrong side and those (indicating the cops) don't give a damn about them. They're using them as a pawn. You rarely don't ever see the Black police when nothing like this is going on. They hardly work 'em. But now they want to set 'em right in the front line when this is happening.

Like Ron Johnson?

For a pawn. He's a pawn. And he doesn't even know it. But he loves the camera so he'll do it for that.

He's serving the system...

Oh, but Black cops, when they go home at night they're still a "n__." The ones that are helping them. They're using them.

Why do you think such fierce and sustained protest has erupted since many people have been killed by police in the area?

It was the straw that broke the camel's back. This has been happening for years. They harass us and if we complain they tell us to file a report. If we file a report they laugh at us, or throw it back. We have no rights. There's no justice. And we know this. That's why this keeps going on...


Driving in from Iowa

White man and woman in their 20's.

Why did you come to Ferguson?

We're from Iowa. We drove four  hours this morning. We have a magazine called Iconic. We don't usually write about this sort of thing but we decided we should. It's an art and culture magazine...but we decided this was more important.


College Professor: "The semester cannot begin as usual"

Black man in his 30's

When did you come?

I drove here this morning from Chicago with my wife and children. They are back at the hotel room. I see this as a broader problem—it's not really about Michael Brown. I think it involves the whole diaspora community—the Black and brown persons in this country.

I detect an academic vocabulary....

Yes! (laughs) I'm a professor at DePaul in Chicago. This situation is an unfortunate reality. I start school Monday. I am probably a week behind in preparation for tomorrow will be an extensive work day. But for me the semester cannot begin as usual. For me the value of a liberal arts education is that it gives people a certain capacity to enter into a broader range of discussion. So for me whether you're in a philosophy class or a history class or whatever, it's always right to inject current events that have an impact on the way we live, it's socially critical. So for me this event and these past few weeks are at the cutting edge of both of those discussions so I look forward to having a good group of happy freshman to get their minds percolating.

Ferguson is not much different than Watts, it's not much different than Inglewood—it's just a perfect storm of race, class, economics and poverty. It's almost like the Third Ward in New Orleans. It's a perfect storm. And when a perfect storm comes and ignites the community to feel totally disenfranchised—it's Paolo Freire—when people come to consciousness and realize that our human dignity is at stake.

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