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Planners Hope 'Ferguson October' Promotes Social Change

From a march in Ferguson on Aug. 15
Durrie Bouscaren I St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Public Radio

Durham, Cleveland, Portland and New York: These are just some of the cities from which people are traveling to St. Louis this weekend for "Ferguson October" — a series of events, including marches, rallies and educational sessions.

In response to the the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, local organizations have consistently protested that action and what they see as a pattern of actions that discount the value of black lives. These groups have called on people across the nation to converge in Ferguson and in St. Louis for what they are calling a weekend of resistance. It is set to run from Friday through Monday.

Hands Up United, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, Organization for Black Struggle and many other groups have been planning this weekend

Coalition leaders say they hope to “build momentum for a nationwide movement against police violence,” with this weekend’s activities.

Hands Up United activist Tef Poe said this weekend is about pushing for change.

“Young people are saying things need to change; we don’t agree with this and we’re here to create this new sort of revolution that is asking, not even asking, but demanding the system hold itself to some sort of accountability,” Poe said. “At the end of the day that’s what it’s about.”

Tef Poe performed at the benefit for Brown family August 2014
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio
Tef Poe performing at a benefit for Michael Brown's family in August

He said a measure such as the weekend of resistance is the community’s way of trying to force police and political systems to be accountable.

“It’s us saying, 'look, if you don’t want to hear us, we will make you hear us,' ” he said.

The weekend events will include two marches. One is set for Friday from 3 to 5 p.m., outside the St. Louis County Justice Center. Another march will take place Saturday in downtown St. Louis.

The other events include panel discussions, teach-ins, dinners, mobilization training and religious gatherings.

According to a text update from a list-serve run by "Ferguson October" organizers, they are expecting thousands of people to participate in the weekend's activities.

Patricia Bynes, a Ferguson Democratic committeewoman who has given voice to many of the protesters’ demands, said some have expressed concerns about "Ferguson October."

“There have been people who think there are people coming to St. Louis just to wreak havoc in the region; that there is Armageddon is going to happened, “ she said. “I feel sad that some people would even initially think that’s what is going to happen. There shouldn’t be that type of fear when this is really just based on exercising your first amendment rights.”

Bynes said she is looking forward to this weekend’s events.

“People are coming here for a reason,” she said. “We can lead on these issues. People wouldn’t come here, if they didn’t thing we could lead and help on these issues.” 

Poe says he wants participants who travel to Ferguson to take the energy surrounding this weekend back to their own cities and work for change:

"The number one thing that I want is for people to come here and feel rejuvenated in the fight for social justice. to know that there are other people like you everywhere and to also know that even though everyone’s story is unique the struggle within itself isn’t unique and that you know that this is going on all across the world. You can come here this weekend and partake in something that may leave an everlasting impression on the world and take that energy back to your city  and so the same thing."

The main events are:

Fri., 3-5 p.m.: Justice Now March, Westfall Justice Center, Clayton

Fri., 8 p.m.-1 a.m.: Candlelight March 9200 W. Florissant Ave., Ferguson

Sat., 10 a.m.-2 p.m.: National March and Rally, starting at 15th and Market streets, St. Louis

Sun., 7-10 p.m.: Hip-Hop & Hope , Chaifetz Arena, Saint Louis University

For a complete schedule, go to Ferguson October.