My heart aches today.
I’m in Ferguson – supporting the incredible work of ACLU of Missouri, meeting with activists, helping out legal observers, handing out Know Your Rights t-shirts and cards to protesters.
And, as a person of color, I’m here bearing witness.
Last night, we stood with thousands of others in Ferguson, listening to St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch make his announcement.
Protesters listening in Ferguson to McCullough’s statement
There was a hush over the crowd as we all strained to hear the broadcast. And then… what is there to say? We all had so much energy during the day – energy and solidarity. There was palpable excitement – we were all standing together for a cause. But even though we were all ready for the news, it was just so hard to hear it. And then all of a sudden, everything changed and the quiet was replaced with the crying and weariness of our shared grief.
(To read the ACLU’s response to Ferguson and recommendations for nationwide police reform, click here.)
I woke up this morning to news coverage of buildings burning. But what I saw yesterday and the days before in Ferguson was the passion burning in people’s hearts. Early this morning, I attended a clergy-led protest in Clayton, near Ferguson. People were still crying, saying this is not how I want to be treated as a black person. This is not the America I want.
A moment of silence at the clergy-led action in Clayton, near Ferguson
I met Larry Fellows III in Ferguson – he’s a 29-year old organizer from St. Louis. Larry had never seen himself as an activist before. He told me that it wasn’t till he went to a protest in Ferguson where there were rubber bullets and M-16s aimed at him that he was called to action. Larry was hit with tear gas – “these weird Pokémon balls that spit out gas. All this stuff I had never seen before in my life.”
Larry told me that “it just showed me we should be able to fight for our constitutional rights without being terrorized by the police.” And he’s done just that, becoming part of the next generation of the American civil rights movement.
Larry Fellows III, a 29-year old organizer from St. Louis City
Because we’re not just talking about Ferguson. The demonstrations across the country are about all the unarmed black and brown civilians killed by the police. They’re about Akai Gurley, shot by a rookie police officer in a stairwell last week in Brooklyn. They’re about Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy shot dead by police on a playground in Cleveland two days ago. They’re about Eric Garner, who died after NYPD officers held him in an illegal chokehold in Staten Island this summer. They’re about each and every person of color who has experienced this nationwide pattern of police using excessive force with impunity.
Is there hope to be had? I’m not sure – it feels like a hopeless moment, but a hopeless moment can be a seed for change. We’re angry and mourning today, yet we need to make this the turning point. We need to fix the system. We need to make this the America we want.