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As Tensions Run High In Ferguson, Webster Students Stage Peaceful Protest

Tim Lloyd
St. Louis Public Radio

As tension continues to run high in Ferguson in the wake of the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, about 75 people gathered on the campus of Webster University for a peaceful protest.

Chants of “hands up, don’t shoot!” and “no justice, no peace!” echoed off buildings on Webster Grove’s leafy streets. Students held signs that read, “Why should I fear being a black man?” and “United we stand.”

But the tone was decidedly relaxed. No tear gas or riot gear, just a handful of police. No worries about Molotov cocktails, just professors in sandals exchanging philosophical notes with students.

It was just the way Henry Coleman wanted it to be. He’s the president of the Webster University Chapter of the Association of African American Collegians (AAAC), which organized the event.

“Social movements happen on college campuses,” Coleman said, who’s a senior at Webster studying audio engineering. “Demonstrations at college campuses stopped the Vietnam War.”

Coleman said he’s been out to Ferguson several times, but he wanted to do something on his campus. He’s been watching as students at other colleges and universities across the country stage protests, and Coleman said his friends at other schools in the St. Louis area have been talking about doing something locally.

“It feels like everybody’s waiting for someone to take the lead, so, I took the lead,” Coleman said.

Now, he hopes, momentum will start building at other college campuses in the St. Louis region. Paige Alyssa Hegwood, a senior studying music who helped organize the protest, said they want to reach all students, not just African Americans.

“We're just trying to take a stance here, bring it over to this side of the county,” Hegwood said. “Do it peacefully and raise awareness for what’s going on.”

Tim Lloyd was a founding host of We Live Here from 2015 to 2018 and was the Senior Producer of On Demand and Content Partnerships until Spring of 2020.