FERGUSON, Mo. – Despite shocking scenes of police intimidation and violence directed against protesters and journalists here this city’s community members continue to wage a campaign of non-violent action demanding answers in the police killing last week of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Typical of the non-violent peaceful protests were events this past Tuesday that saw people fill the seats in the Greater St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church and the surrounding streets with calls for peace and healing.
The numbers of community members, Black and white, who attended far outnumbered any who had engaged in looting the night before.
Only a day earlier there had been a peaceful public meeting called by the St. Louis NAACP where the call that went out was one for immediate justice in the case which witnesses say amounted to the murder of an unarmed African American man by an as-yet unidentified white policeman The Ferguson police have been withholding the name of the police officer who shot Brown.
The demonstrators here on Tuesday, as they have been since the protests first began, were met by a heavy and intimidating police presence. The police had shut down and barricaded entry points to the section of town where the protests are being held, forcing those who attended the church gathering to march there on foot from the barricaded area.
As people filled the church their spirits were buoyed by the slow and steady rise of chanting by the crowd.
Civil rights leader, the Rev. Al Sharpton, flew into St. Louis on Tuesday to lend his voice in support of what has become a national cause. Sharpton walked hand in hand with members of Michael Brown’s family as they made their way downtown to the Clayton Old Courthouse before speaking to the crowd gathered there. He called for justice, prayer and above all, peace.
Over the murmur of private conversations in the outer church hallway, Michael Brown’s cousin, Eric Davis, took to the podium and spoke of his personal memories of his beloved cousin. “He wasn’t the type of kid who wanted to hurt anyone,” Davis said. “What happened on Saturday was they cut my cousin’s life short.”
As Sharpton rose to speak, he began by crying out, “No justice no peace.” He then took to the podium and addressed the crowd for over half an hour. He condemned the police crime but also warned against violent protests. “To become violent in Michael Brown’s name is to betray the gentle giant that he was,” said Sharpton. “Don’t be a traitor to Michael Brown.”
Photo: Police operations in Ferguson resemble what one would expect on a battlefield rarther thatn what one would expect at protest demonstrations. Robert Cohen/AP