St. Louis adds its voice to national protest against police brutality

St. LOUIS – “Seventy-five days! Indict now! Seventy-five days…” I arrived on scene as a group of about 50-75 protestors took over St. Louis County police department’s main entrance around 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 22. Almost everyone I saw was holding flowers, teddy bears, AA battery candles, and, to top it off, a glass mirrored coffin for police to see their stark reflections as they were confronted; a clear reminder that many people here are still waiting for justice to be served in the killing of Michael Brown.

With their chants bellowing across the streets, passersby on their lunch hours were reminded that in 75 days the family of Michael Brown has not received any answers from law enforcement officials and that during this time hundreds of peaceful demonstrators have been arrested and another young black teenager was killed during an incident involving an off-duty officer serving as private security.

“You can’t kill people without any consequences!” shouted Montague Simmons, of the Organization for Black Struggle, as he and other peaceful demonstrators were confronted by 15 officers blocking the public entrance. As they inched further up the staircase, Simmons calmly explained to police that all they wanted was to be let into the public area of the building and present a case at the meeting of police commissioners. “We are tax-paying citizens, this building belongs to us, the people,”  explained a young woman from the stair’s landing.

It was apparent that no one was going to be let into the building from the main entrance-the unwelcoming custom glass doors were locked to the public. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a handful of protestors’ break away from the main group and make their way around the side of the building. Shortly, the call went out for everyone to make their way to the side door which was still open for public use.

The glass coffin went in first and within five minutes demonstrators had occupied the building’s hallway and held their line against police and their video cameras. “Indict now. Indict now!” The hallway was bursting with energy as police presence continued to grow and sheer defiance was the demonstrator’s only counter-measure. As the request to be let in  continued to be denied a lone police lieutenant announced the police commissioners meeting had ended-then that it had been cancelled.

With no honest answers in sight demonstrators demanded to speak to the chief of police, who surprisingly was not in at the time, and instead were informed that the Lieutenant-Colonel would only speak to one person, away from the group. “How do we know we would come back alive?,” asked a 40-year-old in the group.

“Let’s remember why we are here today,” said Simmons as he slowly turned to address the crowd. “We are here to honor those who cannot be here. They are not forgotten.”

Demonstrators left the building as peacefullyjas they had entered and as they congregated outside they picked up yellow funeral slips to place on car windshields. Demonstrators intended to create a funeral procession and visit every location where black lives were stolen at the hands of police.

“Can’t stop, won’t stop,” was the chant I heard as I left with other demonstrators.

Photo: Alex Brandon/AP


Al Neal
Al Neal

Award winning journalist Al Neal is PW associate editor for labor and politics. He is also the chief photographer for People's World. He is a member of the Chicago News Guild, Society of Professional Journalists, Professional Photographers of America, National Sports Media Association, and The Ernest Brooks Foundation.