Streets Tense, Protests Continue After Police Kill Black Teenager
FERGUSON, Mo. (CN) - The streets of Ferguson, Mo. felt tense Tuesday as hundreds of protestors took to the streets demanding more diversity in the St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office and some called for the prosecutor's resignation.
The protest stemmed from the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police on Saturday, which sparked riots in Ferguson (10 miles north of Clayton) on Sunday night.
Police shot tear gas to disperse protestors Monday night.
The FBI said it is launching its own investigation into Brown's death, but the crowd on Tuesday said it had lost faith in St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch to conduct its investigation.
"I do not believe that the county police can move forward with an objective investigation," attorney Jerryl Christmas told Courthouse News. "I wish that the FBI would take over the investigation. I would feel more comfortable with Eric Holder and the U.S. Attorney's Office investigating this than I would with Bob McCulloch investigating this."
The Tuesday protest started at 10 a.m. in front of the St. Louis County jail.
More than 300 protesters peacefully marched through the streets of Clayton for about 45 minutes chanting phrases such as: "Hey hey, ho ho, racist police have to go;" "Hands up, don't shoot;" "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" "No justice, no peace;" and "Hey hey, ho ho, killing blacks has got to go."
Community activist Zaki Brutti said the protestors want the police officer who shot Brown identified, indicted and tried for murder.
Authorities so far have refused to release the officer's name.
Anthony Shahid, of the Tauheed Youth Group, pointed out that only three of Ferguson's 53 police officers are African-American. Ferguson's population of 21,000 is almost 65 percent African-American.
"I'm telling you, St. Louis, our problem is not with Hamas," Shahid told the crowd. "Our problem is not in Afghanistan or Iraq. Our problem is right here in the United states of America in Clayton, Mo., and Ferguson, right here where black people are being dogged."
Shahid challenged African-Americans across the country to help.
"This is a mission that's starting," Shahid said. "We're going to close down St. Louis, but we're starting with Clayton, Mo. We're asking for 10,000 brothers and sisters from around the country to come in with us, because until we close them down economically, they're going to continue shooting us down in the streets."
The group's leadership had planned to meet with McCulloch during the protest, but later refused the meeting.
"We refuse now to meet with Bob McCulloch," Shahid said. "He wants to pick his hand-picked Negros who he wants to meet with. You don't pick who you want to meet with. You meet with whom we tell you, whom we respect."
At the end of the protest, the microphone was opened to the public.
Many who spoke stressed peaceful demonstrations and unity, including 26-year-old Kennard Williams.
"This isn't about race," Williams said. "At the end of the day, this is about the value of human life."
The Rev. Al Sharpton met with Brown's family Tuesday morning. In the afternoon, Sharpton echoed Williams' sentiment in a speech in downtown St. Louis.
"Don't be so angry that you distort the image of who his mother and father told us he was," Sharpton said of Brown. "The story around this nation has been an unarmed young gentleman has been taken from us on the weekend he was going to school. Some of us are making the story how mad we are rather than how promising he was. Don't be a traitor to Michael Brown in the name of you being mad."
Sharpton then echoed the protestors' sentiment regarding the investigation into Brown's death.
"We want the federal government to step in and not only partner, but to be the ones who deal with this case. ... The local authorities have put themselves in a position by hiding names and not being transparent where people will not trust anything but an objective investigation," Sharpton said. "It is in the interest of everybody, in the interest of bringing the city together in having an objective investigation."
The protestors hope their message of disenfranchisement and distrust get through.
"We are paying attention to what is going on and that the whole country is watching," Christmas said. "We want a prosecutor's office that reflects the community that we live in. How can you expect for us to have faith in this system when we're not a part of it?"