Protestors of all colors demand prosecution of Ferguson cop who killed Michael Brown
All photos by Jesse Marx
By 6 p.m., the rain has dissipated. Hundreds of protestors are gathering outside the Hennepin County Government Center on Thursday to demand the prosecution of a white Ferguson, Missouri, cop named Darren Wilson. And as they do, a black security guard leaves his post and steps briefly outside.
"If I weren't working," he says, "I'd be out here, too."
On August 9, Wilson shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, to death. The event has touched a nerve, not merely in the St. Louis suburbs. There's been an explosion of angry directed at the way black folks are treated by police, with plenty of examples to go around.
Video surfaced this week of St. Paul police arresting Chris Lollie for simply sitting in the skyway back in January. As he waits for his children to come out of school, he's questioned aggressively, then tased. Charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct, and obstructing the legal process followed, but were later dropped.
There's been some debate in the last couple weeks over whether whites can use the same protest gestures as blacks -- a notion that Mel Reeves, one of the event organizers, tries to dispel.
"This is not a black problem," he says. "This is a people problem." To be precise, a class problem.
Reeves expounds on this idea later as the rally gets rolling and he takes a mic to say the black community cannot change the system by itself. He looks out at people of all colors and ages who've come out in solidarity. White children hold signs and raise spare fists into the air to mimic their parents.
"Of course you're Michael Brown!" Reeves thunders. "You're a human being!"
After the speeches, Reeves guides the crowd onto the street, marching west on Fifth Avenue. Drummers bang on big buckets. A gray-haired white man stands on the sidewalk with a surprised look on his face, and shrugs. "It's a complicated issue," he says.
Other onlookers weren't so ambivalent. They pulled out cell phones and began filming away. At a bus stop on Hennepin Avenue, a white woman in a purple blouse smiles and joins the chant.
What do we want?
When do we want it?
"It's just gotta stop," she says, aside. "I don't want to be afraid of the cops." Down the street, a black man waives to the crowd, shouting "thank you" above the din.
The rally keeps moving thanks to organizers as well as two Minneapolis bike cops. They hold back motorists at Third Avenue while a woman jumps out of her car and hugs a protestor.
Through it all, police maintain a low profile -- watching from afar and talking often into their radios. As the rally reconvenes outside the Government Center, one of the bike cops pauses long enough to share his thoughts.
"Even though it's about us," he says, "we just want everybody to be safe."
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