On Monday hundreds of protesters launched another day of demonstrations in Ferguson over the killing of the unarmed teenager Michael Brown. As the people committed acts of civil disobedience well-known activist Dr. Cornel West was not only knocked over during a testy exchange between police officers and protesters, but also arrested.
Cornel Ronald West has called the United States a “racist patriarchal” nation where he believes white supremacy has continuously defined everyday life for African-Americans. West argues the racial injustice has historically attributed to most of the black community’s problems. It has produced a “degraded and oppressed people hungry for self-worth, meaning and identity.” He maintains the emotional scars which have been inflicted by white supremacist beliefs continue to permeate America’s culture and society. As a result, West says, “Blacks feel unprotected, unsafe and subjected to random violence because of who they are.”
West is not only an activist but a public intellectual, American philosopher, author, professor and academic scholar. The majority of his work focuses on race, class and gender in American society. It comes as no surprise that he would join the fight for equal rights in Ferguson where racial injustice has long been a documented issued.
West was not the only person to be arrested, he was the first of many. Nearly 100 clergy members and civilians met at Wellspring Church and marched to the police station. Once they arrived they were met with about two dozen officers who were standing guard, with another line of officers behind them. One protester yelled out:
We come in peace and they are armed.
According to spokesman Brian Schellman, who represented the St. Louis County Police Department, arrests were not made until protesters starting pushing and bumping officer’s shields as they attempted to force their way through the police skirmish line. Reportedly, protesters were told to stay back and remain peaceful by protesting clergymen but some refused and tried to bum rush the officers.
Some protesters called out for officers to repent while other people spoke in a calm and cool manner with law enforcement. Police smiled, shook hands and even embraced some of the protesters as they spoke to each other. When addressing a protester one officer was heard saying:
I must put my trust in the system. If the system is broken we have to fix it.
The kind gestures between the opposing parties quickly disappeared when some of the protesters broke through the police tape and headed towards the front doors of the police station. Officers tried to maintain order with their batons but many protesters kept charging. This was the beginning of the arrests.
This incident was the latest in a weekend long event which took place in the Missouri suburb that activists are calling “Ferguson October.” West spoke to a group of people at St. Louis University on Sunday evening where he told them he was ready to be arrested for the demonstration. The activist said:
It’s a beautiful thing to see people on fire for justice, but I didn’t come here to give a speech, I came here to go to jail.
Protest groups, civil rights organizations and civilians from around the country gathered to protest the shooting of Michael Brown. In a statement organizers said they were calling attention to the economic injustice they live with in Ferguson. The “acts of civil disobedience” were aimed to encourage officials to enact a justice agenda and end the complicity. Michael Brown was killed on August 9 when he was shot multiple times by Officer Darren Wilson. The public demonstrations were aimed at the many killings of African-American youth at the hands of law enforcement.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)