Monday, October 20, 2014

In Ferguson, activists in search of a revolution

Demonstrators march through the street on Oct. 13, 2014 in St Louis, Mo. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty)
Demonstrators march through the street on Oct. 13, 2014 in St Louis, Mo.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty

In Ferguson, activists in search of a revolution

FERGUSON, Missouri — It took seven University of Pennsylvania students piled into a rental van nearly 16 hours to drive to St. Louis. They had raised $600 in three days from a Go Fund Me account that was supposed to last them through the weekend. They slept wherever they could crash for free — the basement of a St. Louis couple’s home, or packed on the floor of a church at night.
But once in Ferguson, it was nothing like the war zone they had seen splashed on their television screens exactly two months earlier.
Instead of armored vehicles blocking suburban intersections and stoking chaos in the streets, police squad cars were escorting peaceful marches that were careful organized and tailored during the day. Instead of training assault rifles on the faces of protesters, officers were standing idly by, at times even joking around with anyone within earshot.
“I guess we are feeding off of what we saw in August,” 22-year-old Laura Krasovitzky said one night in Ferguson. “We all came because we saw the footage on TV of what happened. I think people were shocked because this was happening in the U.S.”
Without the heavily militarized law enforcement response to what started as local outrage over the killing of a young black teen by a white police officer, young people like Krasovitzky may never have joined in demonstrations held months later. But as calls for the officer’s arrest grow more desperate, the movement takes on a greater meaning for supporters hundreds of miles away who seek an end to police violence.
Krasovitzky and her crew of classmates came to Ferguson to join in solidarity with those who felt not only that the teen’s death was unjust, but that the circumstances of the killing represent a pervasive problem with police forces across the country, one that carried deep racial undertones. Rather than simply stand by, the students were given a chance to join the rallies calling for justice through the “Weekend of Resistance” — a four-day protest spurred by the death of Michael Brown, who was unarmed when he was shot by a Ferguson police officer. That officer, Darren Wilson, remains free while a St. Louis grand jury investigates whether he should be charged with a crime.

“It was awesome to go and be there in solidarity — we went to the events, we went to the protests — but it still feels a little like it was not ours.”
Laura Krasovitzky, age 22

“Wait for tonight. The social injustice is what brought us here. Just wait for tonight.”
Student activist

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