ST. LOUIS, Missouri – Acts of civil disobedience carried over to Monday night’s NFL game between the St. Louis Rams and the San Francisco 49ers, as nearly two dozen protesters inside Edward Jones Dome unfurled banners and began chanting “black lives matter.” The protesters were subject to both jeers and words of support as they walked out of the stadium to join others holding signs and demonstrating outside.
“I think it’s perfectly fine what they’re doing,” said Dan Goldman, a fan exiting the game with his young son. “As long as they’re not hurting anyone it’s their right. Everyone wants justice.”
The protests at the football game capped off a day of civil disobedience that took place despite the heavy sheets of rain that drenched the St. Louis and Ferguson area. Prominent faith leaders kicked off the movement Monday morning, marching to the Ferguson Police Department headquarters to call on officers to confess their sins. About an hour later and a few short miles away, young activists took frustrations to the streets by blocking off traffic at a major intersection for several hours. Later in the day, dozens of protesters brought their grievances to the political class, stomping their feet, blowing whistles and chanting through the center of City Hall.
Monday’s demonstrations, which led to a total of 49 arrests, culminated four days of organized protests in the “Weekend of Resistance” to mark two months since unarmed teen Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer. Dubbed “Moral Monday ” as a nod to the North Carolina demonstrations by the same name organized by the NAACP, the day’s demonstration brought more than 100 demonstrators of diverse backgrounds to actions throughout the region.
More than a dozen demonstrators – including Professor Cornel West and Rev. Osagyefo Sekou – were both arrested during a protest outside the Ferguson Police Department.
Before the arrests, members of the clergy had read off the names of young men killed by police, with the crowd crying “repent!” after each name. The clergy — including big names like Sekou, as well as local pastors who have led the protest movement since Brown was shot — lined up to face the police officers. Most remained stoic, though a few exchanged quiet words with the clergy.
Another half-dozen protesters were arrested at Lucus-Hunt and W. Florissant Ave., where demonstrators began blocking a major intersection and chanting “hey, hey, ho, ho, these killer cops have got to go.” Police used squad cars to block traffic while filming the group of 30 protesters demonstrating in the area.
The arrests come on the sixth day of action in the St. Louis area, where demonstrations began earlier than expected when another young black teen, Vonderrit Myers, Jr., was killed by an off-duty police officer during a gunfight on Wednesday night, prompting immediate protests.
The day’s action comes just hours after more than 1,000 peaceful protesters staged a massive sit-in at the heart of St. Louis University’s campus early Monday morning, leading to multiple acts of civil disobedience throughout the city — including blocking an intersection by playing games and jumping rope — on the same night as raw frustrations from activists bubbled to the surface in a public forum.
Police blocked off roads and readied officers with riot gear, but were unable to curb protests, which parted ways in separate groups marching in different directions for hours, only later to come together once again at the gates of the university.
In one direction early Monday morning, the family of Myers led a silent march for a stretch through St. Louis with crowds of protesters around them. In the other direction, protesters paused in their march to block a street intersection. “They think it’s a game, they think it’s a joke,” protesters chanted of police as they blocked traffic by playing actual games, everything from Twister to jump rope to tossing beach balls.
Once through the gated entrance of St. Louis University, hundreds of marchers gathered in the campus quad, chanting “out of the dorms into the streets.”
Honoring a request by Myers’ mother, protesters stood for four minutes of absolute silence, a minute for each day since the teen was killed. Standing in front of the crowd, Vonderrit Myers Sr. thanked the protesters for honoring his slain son. “You make my heart feel easy,” he said over a loudspeaker. “God bless you.”
The tone was markedly different at an event earlier on Sunday evening, where an interfaith ceremony meant to promote unity was disrupted by a crowd of mostly young protesters, disillusioned by the older, black establishment. Hecklers interrupted speakers on multiple occasions, while a white activist who stood up and shouted was quickly booed by the crowd. Young artists took to the stage unannounced, at times resorting to profanity as some openly criticized establishment organizations like the NAACP and black clergy.
“I don’t care how this looks, this ain’t made for TV,” said Tef Poe, a prominent young activist. “This ain’t your parents’ civil rights movement.”
The Ferguson October, as organizers are calling it, is the second large-scale protest to rock the small St. Louis suburb this year; aside from 17 arrests for unlawful assembly outside a QuikTrip Saturday night, which protesters said police used an excess of force, they’ve been largely peaceful. The protests immediately following Brown’s death were marked by tear gas, violence, and dozens of arrests.
Jane C. Timm contributed to this report.