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Ferguson October Night Four: Protests Pop Up At Democratic Fundraiser, Walmarts, Rams Game

Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

The fourth night of Ferguson October demonstrations was marked by a series of decentralized actions by small groups of protesters at widely divergent venues across the region.

Protesters showed up at a fund-raiser for Steve Stenger, the Democratic candidate for county executive. Stenger has been the target of some protesters because of his political connections to county Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch.

Other groups, protesting the police shooting death of John Crawford at a Walmart inBeavercreek, Ohio, started demonstrating late afternoon at Walmart in Ferguson and then moved on to a Walmart in Maplewood and another in Bridgeton.

Protesters with tickets entered the Edward Jones Dome and unfurled banners saying "black lives matter" during the Rams game. According to reports on Twitter, protesters also marched through areas of the stadium chanting slogans like "Who are we? Mike Brown." Another group of protesters remained outside the stadium. Responses to the protesters ranged from taunts to expressions of support.

As of 7:30 p.m., police had taken 49 people into custody, including visiting civil rights activist and professor Cornel West and the Rev. Osagyefo Seku. They were arrested earlier during Ferguson October's "Day Of Civil Disobedience" that also included demonstrations at the Ferguson police department, Emerson's headquarters and several college campuses.

Protesters Target Stenger Fundraiser

A small group of protesters demonstrated at Stenger’s fundraiser Monday night in downtown Webster Groves,  but their target wasn’t just the Democratic nominee for St. Louis County Executive.

Several unfurled a banner outside the event that declared “Stenger/McCaskill,’’ a reference to Stenger’s headline speaker: U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

Three protesters blocked the front entrance until they were removed by police. At least two protesters also got inside the event, held at the Onder Law Firm and attended largely by lawyers supportive of Stenger, a fellow attorney.

One screaming protester, dressed in a suit, was wrestled to the floor by police when he got close to Stenger, prompting some guests to spill their wine. Another got within inches of the senator, shouting in her ear, “When will there be justice for Michael Brown?”

That’s a reference to the teenager killed by a Ferguson policeman on Aug. 9, setting off protests that have continued two months later.

Stenger's event attracted a number of top area Democrats, including former Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell, former Sen. Jean Carnahan and two of her children: former Secretary of State Robin Carnahan and former U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis. 

Several African-American officials and Democratic activists also attended, including Leslie Broadnax, who had run against County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch in the August primary. Broadnax is now campaigning for Stenger.

Dozens of police arrived at Stenger's event after authorities found alerts on social media telling protesters to try to storm the fundraiser. A Stenger spokesman said Monday marked the first time that protesters had targeted one of his fundraisers, although others said privately that Stenger now has a security detail because of threats directed at him and his family.

Some of the police and protesters had come from an earlier confrontation at Plaza Frontenac. The Post-Dispatch reported that about 35 protesters from the Millennial Activists United "gathered together near the central escalator near the Tiffany's store and chanted." The newspaper quoted organizer Jamell Spann as saying, "We made people feel uncomfortable, but we want to show them how we feel uncomfortable every day.”

McCaskill told Stenger attendees that she supported the protesters’ rights to air their views, but she said that they were misguided in any effort to aid Stenger’s rival, Republican Rick Stream.

Credit Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio
Steve Stenger, the Democratic candidate for county executive, is flanked on his right by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, left, and former U.S. Sen. Jean Carnahan, right.

Stream and his Republican allies “have not been there,’’ she said, for the issues close to the hearts of many of the protesters, she said. She cited Stream's opposition to expanding Medicaid for poor people and his support for new laws allowing the open carry of firearms and in favor of the new 72-hour waiting period for abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

“I could go on and on,’’ the senator said. “This is not a short list.”

While she was speaking inside, protesters outside could be heard shouting, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!”

Pop-Up Protests Throughout St. Louis Area

Starting around 5:30 p.m., protesters gathered at the Ferguson Walmart to protest the death of John Crawford in Ohio as well as the death of Michael Brown. This was the first of a series of protests throughout the evening that followed a flash-mob protocol. Protesters appeared outside various locations, chanted, danced, confronted police when they arrived and dispersed primarily of their own accord. 

In Ferguson, it began with roughly 15 protesters confronting a line of more than 20 policemen in front of the chain store, closing the entrance to new shoppers.  As additional protesters joined in, police announced that protesters must disperse from Walmart’s parking lot and head a quarter mile back to the entrance and the public sidewalk. The protesters moved slowly back across the parking lot as police advanced. During the walk one protester taunted police, thanking them for helping to close the Walmart.

Protestor arrested outside Ferguson Walmart.
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio
Protestor arrested outside Ferguson Walmart

One protester dedicated the action to Crawford's memory. At the parking lot’s edge four protesters sat and were arrested. The remaining group retreated to the intersection of Somerset Terrace Drive and W. Florissant Avenue. The group split on either side of the intersection as police formed a line barring cars from entering the parking lot from West Florissant Avenue. 

One protester, Gregory Lewis from Seattle, called for more federal oversight of police. Lewis supports body cams and the filming of police actions by citizens. “This is not just about justice, but about real power,” he said.

Around 7 p.m. police backed down Somerset Terrace Drive into the Walmart parking lot and returned to their cars. A contingent of police were left strung across the store’s entrance.

A second pop-up protest began at the Maplewood Walmart around 8:30 p.m. Protesters entered the store chanting and several were arrested. Those arrested included activist and rapper Tef Poe and Patrisse Cullors, who were released later in the evening. After the arrests, protesters gathered outside the Maplewood Walmart, chanting and dancing as police blocked the doors and closed the store. No order was made for the crowd to disperse. The crowd continued chants such as “Black lives matter!” and “Shut it down!” until suddenly dispersing around 9:15 p.m.

Protester Hezekiah McCaskill, 21, said he’d been participating in the protests since August. He said that the protesters were reaching more people.

“They don’t mind when it’s centralized in a predominantly black neighborhood. When we take the fight to them, that’s when we know they’re hearing our message,” McCaskill said.

He said the new tactic was “a good thing.“

“I’m glad that we’re going out, spreading out, not staying in one area, and letting people hear us,“ he said.

Hezekia McCaskill outside Maplewood Walmart
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio
Hezekia McCaskill outside Maplewood Walmart

During the same time as the Walmart protests, demonstrators inside the St. Louis Rams Monday Night Football game also chanted and displayed banners of support.

Pop-up protests continued throughout the evening, outside a Walmart in Bridgeton, a QuikTrip in St. Charles, and the Hollywood Casino, before protesters convened at the Richmond Heights Police Department to await the release of arrestees.

As the night wore on, some protesters also set up tents on Saint Louis University's campus in a move reminiscent of the Occupy Movement.

Protester outside Ferguson Walmart during Ferguson October
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold/St. Louis Public Radio
Protester outside Ferguson Walmart during Ferguson October

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.