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Four Days On, Activists Look For Ways To Channel Frustration Over Michael Brown's Death

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

Activists who work in north St. Louis County sought to use a fourth day of protests over the shooting death of Michael Brown to channel some of the lingering anger and frustration into productive conversations.

Brown was 18 and two days away from college when he was shot and killed by an as-yet unidentified Ferguson police officer on Saturday. A peaceful protest on Sunday spiraled into a night of violence and looting. And on Monday, police officers used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a crowd that had gathered at one of the businesses that had been looted.

On Tuesday morning, younger protestors and seasoned activists alike joined in an hour-long march around the St. Louis County administration complex. About 60 of the younger protestors remained in front of the St. Louis County jail when the march ended.

That's where Juliette Jacobs set up her suggestion board. She wanted the younger activists to give their solutions for reducing tensions between the police and the community. 

"These are not the people that are out rioting," Jacobs said. "But what we need is to use their voices to come up with some solutions that will help the community heal and end the violence."

About a dozen people pasted their suggestions on Jacobs' poster board. The ideas ranged from citizen review boards for police to encouraging young people to write down their feelings about violence.

Jacobs said she listened to NAACP president Cornell W. Brooks' speech on Monday evening in which he urged the crowd to turn anger into righteous indignation. She said she was particularly moved by a member of the audience who asked speakers for a solution.

"People are asking for a solution, and we need to give it to them," Jacobs said.

"It Don't Make Any Sense."

But Jacobs and other community leaders could not convince all the protesters to contribute to the suggestion board. Jeffrey Hill, who lives in north St. Louis, found the entire exercise a waste of time. He said it makes no sense to try and work with a society that hassles black men daily.

Credit (Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)
Jeffrey Hill said he thinks African Americans should refrain from any interaction with the white community.

"This isn't the first person that's died from the police," he said. "This isn't the first racial issue that we've dealt with in this country. We've been in this position to be in public and have discussions and get answers and all of that, and they have proven time and time again that that's not what they want to do."

Hill suggested that the black community pull away from broader society. Protest organizers suggested something a little narrower such as a boycott of St. Louis County businesses. Speakers at the vigil on Sunday night had called for a boycott of Ferguson businesses. 

Organizers of Tuesday's march had also planned to meet with prosecutor Bob McCulloch to make their demands for more diversity on his staff in person. They later said they decided against the meeting because McCulloch had not agreed to meet with their appointed representative. Protestors also repeated the call to have the Ferguson officer fired and charged with murder.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

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Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.