Voices from Ferguson:
Talking with "the Regulars" on W. Florissant

by Li Onesto | September 1, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


I was out on West Florissant almost every night while I was in Ferguson, talking to people, and got to recognize a lot of the "regulars" who came to protest every evening. They got to recognize me as well and some would come up to greet me. People really wanted to talk—to express their anger and why they had been coming out every night—in spite of the tear gas, rubber bullets, and the pleas for "calm and peace" rebuking those who were telling people to go home. What really came through was their determination to keep fighting to get justice for Mike Brown. Here are the voices of some of the "regulars" I talked to out on West Florissant.

Much, much thanks to the Revolution STOP Mass Incarceration Project volunteers who helped transcribe the audios of these interviews.


"We ain't calming down"

Have you been out here like this whole week?

Yes, I've been out here. I—I really think it's bullshit.

That what?

That they killed Mike Brown. Because he didn't do anything. It's very messed up that they killed him.

Ferguson, August 20, 2014. Photo: Li Onesto/revcom.us

Did you know him?

Yes, I knew him. He was a friend of mine. He went to—to Riverview Gardens High School with me. We was cool and stuff, but that's messed up what they done to him. The police had no right to kill him. I'm screaming, "Fuck the Police!" for real. The police got to go.

What's your experience with the police?

Oh, I done been locked up numerous times. By the Ferguson Police Department. They feed you honey buns at 5:00 o'clock in the morning, then at 12:00 afternoon they give you a pot pie ,then at 5:00 in the afternoon you get another pot pie, and then you've got to wait another 12 hours until 5:00 in the morning...

What are they locking you up for?

Everything. All type of bullshit.

Just picking you up on the street or what?

I get locked up for every goddamn thing, everything.

Like what? Give me an example.

Shit that they always blame me with. Like I should throw a rock over there at their ass now. I don't like the police. The police got to leave...

A lot of people are saying, you know, this murder with Mike Brown was like the last straw and that's why people are so angry.

Yes, it is. That's why they... That's why they gonna fuck the police up...

People are like saying they're going to stay out here until we get justice. And you know there's been no indictment, there's been no arrest and now they're telling us, be peaceful, go home. What do you think about these people who are saying like calm down, go home?

No, we ain't calming down shit. "No Justice, No Peace! Fuck the Police!." We in Saintghanistan.

All that 'hood—all that 'hood stuff don't matter right now. We—we out here for dude. I don't even know dude and I'm out here, you know what I'm saying?

Like some people are—you've got some people doing one thing... you've got some people doing another.

Do you mean that the different sets are putting aside their differences right now to be together?

Yes. Yes.

Ferguson, August 15, 2014. Photo: Li Onesto/revcom.us

Could you tell me about that?

They be like we see an op. Which is somebody you don't like. And like two ops to be up here, they'll see each other but they will be like no, that—that shit dead right now. We are here for dude, you know what I'm saying?

You mean before Mike Brown they'd be fighting?

No they'd be clapping—they'd be clapping some shit up. They might—so they will fight. Before this somebody might get shot.

But you're saying now that's not happening?

Yes, now that ain't happening. Now everything is just—they just letting it pass, for right now. After all this done then it's going down again, you know what I'm saying?

I told you, we got hella thoughts. We got hella thoughts.

What's your deepest thoughts about this whole week?

We got MAN: I told you—we got—we got hell of thoughts.

"Fuck the Police!" that they killing people for no reason. They killed another dude in the city like three days ago. That was fucked up.


"They done went too far"

OK, so tell me what happened tonight.

Well we was doing the march...

What time was this?

Just say about 9:20

OK, this was over three hours before the midnight curfew.

An armored truck and the police, they came on out and all of a sudden, the next thing you know, they was throwing gas and we got to running. The kids didn't start anything tonight. You know I understand the first and second time they looted, but tonight it was very peaceful. Because I've been here every day but yesterday and I came today and I said I was gonna stay. This time I was gonna stay you know then before the curfew I was going to leave. And we start marching so I say I'm gonna stay for a little more while and when we march got down and a little girl got hit with one of the gas things and it don't make no sense. They always say, you know they had everybody thinking it was the kids, it's not just the kids, it's the police because this time... they started it. This don't make no sense. I was out here, I got gas in my eyes, on my heart and I got hit with a rubber bullet and I'm real hurt. I couldn't get out. I was on my way home after they said they're throwing the gas. I'm trying to get home. They done blocked us in here. It don't make no sense. I think it should... this is one time, it should be something did about this. It's not right."

And what do you think about the fact that people have been out a week now trying to get justice and there's still no arrest of the cop who killed Michael Brown?

Well what I think about it, it's terrible because how can we get justice? How can we be out here for Mike-Mike and they won't let us? It's not even 12 o'clock. This started at 9:20 and it was peaceful. The kids didn't start nothing this time. This don't make no sense. They need to stop it, the police need to stop. They done went too far and somebody need to come in and help us. We need help because it's not working. They need to get them out of here. Whoever those police was that just started this, they need to be fired, all of them. And I'm not by myself. Bryant from the Riverview Times done saw it, you saw it and others... Channel 4, Channel 2... I know they done saw it, it don't make no sense. This time something needs to really be done about it and I'm not going nowhere. I'm going be here in the walk or whatever I can. But tonight I fixing to go to the hospital because the rubber bullet still got my leg stinging [laughter]."


Like a Sundown Town

Let me ask you this, why are you out here tonight?

I wish they would be... justice prevail. And justice will prevail, honey, peoples are tired. I'm 72 and I've seen this too much, too much, too much.

You've seen what?

The Blacks being killed by the police. And then I don't like Blacks killing each other, OK? That's the other side. Stop killing each other because you're being killed enough by the police, you know?

Is this your first night out here or have you been out here every night?

Oh, I've been out here every... I missed two nights. I had to rest.

But you've been out here every other night?

I've been here since—I went to the place first where they shot him and I saw some flesh on the side of the curb. I don't know what it was, but it was some flesh was there. I don't know if it was some of his brains or what. But I saw it.

You mean this was right after he was killed?

Right after he was killed... My daughter lives here in Ferguson. And when we heard, I said I have to go see what is going on. I want to see it for myself. This Black-on-Black crime we're going to have to stop.

But this was a police killing.

Yes. It was a—that's what I'm saying. They always doing it. But the Blacks need to stop killing each other, also.

Let me ask you this, because you've been out here every night. What do you think about how they've been bringing in the tear gas and like the rubber bullets and all that against people?

You know, it made me think about when they army time, you know what I'm saying? That's what brought it to my mind.

What time?

The army, you know, when they're bringing in the military... Yes. That's what that reminded me of. And then getting out of town before sundown, that's called a sundown line.

A sundown law, yes, right.

Everybody know about that. Because I'm from Mississippi and we couldn't be in town when dark come. We had to get out of the town before dark get there. I was in there, all right? I remember. I was young, but I remember my daddy and mama had us and told us... We had to get out of town before sundown. And lo and behold, don't let it be Halloween night.

It's like the KKK would be out?

Yes. That's who was out, the KKK. Believe me honey, I've seen some stuff that you just have to shake your head and say why, lord, why?

So you're saying that—that brought that back, that memory?

It brought it back, honey. It brought all of that back to me, all of that back to me.


"It's already rigged"

Are you from the neighborhood?

No, actually, I'm from St. Louis City and the reason I come out here, I come out to support the people out here that's marching for Mike Brown. And I think about—I have a grandson that's 15 years old. And, you know, when you've got kids and it can happen to anybody. And I would not want this to happen to one of my kids. So that's the reason I'm out here. And it's just, we already know that there's nothing that's going to be done, even though we're out here marching. You know, I just heard tonight, they've got nine white men on the grand jury and three Blacks. That's really nice. At least we could have came up with seven and five. Is it possible? Seven and five? You know, nine means that they're going to say no conviction. And you know what else...

It would mean there wouldn't even be charges, this is just to even decide whether they're going to even indict him.

Yes, that's what I mean. So if they don't indict him... he's free to go and do this again. And another thing is, you know, when they talked about—brought out that Mike Brown had some weed in his system, I want to know when that policeman was taken to the hospital, did they do a drug screen on him? Should have been. Most jobs—most jobs you are on, when something happens, you do a drug screen immediately. You don't wait until two or three days later. They ask them to do it to drive. That's simple. You know, he was at the hospital. They could have do it—easily did a drug screen. Well, why not? You know, we don't know that—the day that that occurred, he could have been high... and I'm going to tell you something else. It's not just that. We don't know what about his family life, you know, his personal life.... I don't know if this man is with a wife or having stresses with a family matter. And all of a sudden, he's angry today. It happens. It's possible. Why don't we dig into that background?

And meanwhile, they bring out all this stuff about the victim... like they're dragging out all this stuff about him showing the video of him at the store and demonizing him like he's the criminal.

Yes. That's exactly right. That is exactly what they do. This is how they cover up. This is how they always cover up. It's—it's just like the young man that was killed over there in St. Louis. That young man was mentally challenged. And I'm going to tell you something, when I sat back and thought about it, I said, you know, this is a young man that probably goes in this store all the time. These people know this man. He's not new to the neighborhood. They know him. And even though he stole something...

Well, maybe. We don't even know that.

You know what I—you know, whatever. But the store—my understanding is the store—somebody called the police in the store. And he went back in there and got something else, supposedly, and came out. Whatever happened, those store—you know, they—they're not focusing on those two police, how they... shot this young man, talking about 21 feet. They didn't even really talk to him. They didn't even talk to him. But they shot and killed him. Nobody is listening to that. Nobody is paying attention to this. These are matters that truly need to be looked into, not act like, oh, just another shooting. They're shooting them dead, point blank, young men. Think about it...

And the next thing is, have anybody ever thought about—I'm not sure what state that was when what's his name, Clive [Bundy], when all those men out there... had all that...When you think about all of them out there with the guns, nobody did nothing. Nobody went up there to arrest nobody. Nobody went to shooting. Why is that different?

That is something that they should have—like they had those armored trucks out here, they should have been up there with that. They have them in Missouri, you sure they don't have them there? Nobody did anything. That went on for days and days and weeks and weeks and nothing happened. And this man was threatening. And they're still there. And he owes the government a million dollars. What's the difference? Why are we not doing anything about that?

Threatening authority. But here, they say you're threatening authority. And here they come with all this here utility—guns ready to shoot.

What do you think is going to happen now?

Oh, there's no conviction because all nine of those white men is hand-picked. The people are going to be upset again, very upset. And they're going to be out here in droves. That's exactly what's going to happen. Because this is what they want. And you know what, they want—they want some violence. They want to bring those tanks back out. They don't mind shooting up a bunch of Blacks, young men. They want to do that.

You think they want an excuse, is that what you're saying?

That's an excuse to do it. That would be an excuse to shoot up a bunch of Blacks out here, because they—they already know.

You know, it's interesting, because some of the young Black men who have been out here every night, one of the things that this young man said to me, he said, you know what, they're already killing us, so I'm just going to stay out here until I get justice.

And they will. They don't, you know, they young. They don't understand... They don't mind that.

But they're kind of saying look, the system is already killing me...

It's already—it's already rigged for them.

Yes. So I might as well be out here fighting.

Yes. So they fighting for something. You know, it's already rigged. You know, look how things are...

Also, everybody feels like, what? There's not enough evidence? They're talking about October before they're going to actually [come back with a decision].

You know what they doing. They are—let me tell you what they're doing. They've got a lot of people that have made statements and they're trying to make those statements... taking those statements so they can fix how they going to come out with his statement.

You mean like twist it around...

Yes. How to make that comport with the murder.

Also I heard something on the news today where they're starting to like try to say those witness are not credible... that they have criminal backgrounds and all thi. Un other words, they're—they're attacking—not only attacking Mike Brown now, but they're attacking all the witnesses.


You know what I mean, this is what they always do here, right?

That is the system. Dorian—"oh, he got a criminal background."... The young lady, they haven't said anything about her. But they're digging. They're going to try to find something...

They did the same thing in the Trayvon Martin case with the woman [who was talking to Trayvon Martin on the phone], they just tried to like drag her through the mud...

Yes. This is exactly what they do. So it's no different. I already know what's happening—what the outcome is going to be. I'm not even trying to debate. I know they got nine white men. They can't find no Blacks out here.

So are you planning to keep coming out here?

Yes, I'm going to be coming out here.


And still no justice for Michael Brown.

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