© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

South St. Louis march remembers VonDerrit Myers Jr.

The makeshift memorial for VonDerrit Myers Jr. at Shaw and Klemm in south St. Louis
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

On a weekend when the major focus will be on the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, several hundred people marched in south St. Louis Saturday to remember VonDerrit Myers Jr.

Last Oct. 8 – nearly two months after Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer – Myers was shot to death in the 4100 block of Shaw by St. Louis policeman Jason Flanery, who was off-duty working as a security guard. Myers' death prompted protests and property damage in south St. Louis, both after the shooting and after a grand jury did not indict Darren Wilson in Brown’s killing.

In May, Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce announced that Flanery would not be charged because “prosecutors have determined a criminal violation could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The evening the circuit attorney issued her report, a vigil was held in the neighborhood where the shooting took place. The next morning a group of 30 or so people took to the streets near the Carnahan Courthouse, which houses the circuit attorney's office.

On Saturday, the crowd began to gather near Mullanphy school in advance of the 2 p.m. scheduled start of the march. Many were wearing T-shirts being handed out to the crowd with the hashtag #unitedwefight and the words “educate demonstrate liberate” displayed beneath a picture of a black fist thrust through the center of a bright yellow map of the United States.

Across the street, near a makeshift memorial to Myers, his parents huddled with a small group, including attorney Jermaine Wooten. After Joyce said no charges would be filed against Flanery, attorneys had said that a wrongful-death suit would be filed in the death of Myers. Wooten said no suit has been filed yet because further investigation was needed in the wake of the circuit attorney’s report.

He said again that a suit would be filed soon, but the family wanted to wait so that the focus would not be deflected from Brown on the anniversary of his death.

He said the suit, to be filed in state court, would seek multimillion-dollar damages from the city, the police force that trained Flanery and the security firm that had hired him to work off-duty.

VonDerrit Myers Sr. said he hoped the march would help people remember his son and the way he died.

VonDerrit Myers Sr.
Credit Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio
VonDerrit Myers Sr.

“I want to carry his name,” he said. “I want his spirit to go on, and I want justice.”

Myers added that the whole event was about more than just the death of his son.

“This march really is a movement,” he said. “This march is for the rest of the world to see, showing we can still pull together as a people, and showing the loss of all children being taken by police brutality.”

About 2:40, with Myers’ parents leading the way behind a banner reading United We Fight, the march began moving east on Shaw to Grand. An hour later, it arrived at Hartford, where marchers were greeted by snacks, water, a barbecue food truck and music in a small park.

Throughout the event, slogans that have become familiar over the past year were changed in a call-and-response. Marchers referred to the younger Myers as “Droop,” his nickname, and proclaimed “I know that we will win,” “No justice, no peace!” and “We’re doing this for VonDerrit.”

Signs carried by the crowd included “eracism,” “we must stop killing each other” and “white silence is violence.” Along Grand, several cars honked and drivers headed north shouted out their solidarity with the marchers going south.

A flyer carried by some marchers at the event in memory of VonDerrit Myers Jr.
Credit Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio
A flyer carried by some marchers at the event in memory of VonDerrit Myers Jr.

Overall, the event was spirited but with no trace of menace or negativity. It demonstrated what one of the most frequently used slogans called for:

“Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!

“Show me what community looks like! This is what community looks like!

“Show me what family looks like! This is what family looks like!”

Dale Singer began his career in professional journalism in 1969 by talking his way into a summer vacation replacement job at the now-defunct United Press International bureau in St. Louis; he later joined UPI full-time in 1972. Eight years later, he moved to the Post-Dispatch, where for the next 28-plus years he was a business reporter and editor, a Metro reporter specializing in education, assistant editor of the Editorial Page for 10 years and finally news editor of the newspaper's website. In September of 2008, he joined the staff of the Beacon, where he reported primarily on education. In addition to practicing journalism, Dale has been an adjunct professor at University College at Washington U. He and his wife live in west St. Louis County with their spoiled Bichon, Teddy. They have two adult daughters, who have followed them into the word business as a communications manager and a website editor, and three grandchildren. Dale reported for St. Louis Public Radio from 2013 to 2016.