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St. Louis-area high school students plan Black Lives Matter protest to focus on racial profiling

Lily Dayan, left, and Devin Corley, right, take part in a walkout at Kirkwood High School to protest gun violence on March 14, 2018.
Devin Corley
Lily Dayan, left, and Devin Corley, right, take part in a walkout at Kirkwood High School to protest gun violence on March 14.

Kirkwood High School freshmen Devin Corley and Lily Dayan decided they were going to make a change, starting with themselves and other local teens.

At Corley and Dayan's instigation, students from across the region are set to participate Saturday in a Black Lives Matter Youth Protest at the Aloe Plaza in downtown St. Louis. 

Corley says the purpose of the protest is to draw attention to recent cases of racial profiling in the St. Louis area, specifically, incidents that happened at retail stores.

One week, two incidents

According to reports, an African-American couple at a Schnucks in Concord Village on May 8 wanted to purchase a money order for $1,000, but a store clerk deinied their request. When the couple questioned store policies, store employees called police and reported the couple as being “disorderly.” The couple eventually obtained the money order and the employee who initially denied them the service was fired.

Less than a week earlier, on May 3, three young African-American men were wrongly accused of stealing at Nordstrom Rack in Brentwood. According to reports, after being followed and watched by employees of the store, they were accused of stealing and the police were called. As in the grocery store case, the allegations were shown to be false. A few days later, the CEO of Nordstrom flew to St. Louis to apologize to three young men in person.

“I’ve seen it happen,” Corley said. “I’ve seen young African-American men walking in and automatically get followed. That’s a real issue in society.”

“Shopping while black”

In a 2013 Pew Research Survey, about 44 percent of African-Americans reported being treated unfairly in stores or restaurants. That’s compared to 16 percent of whites and 35 percent of Hispanics.

While racial profiling in stores and restaurants is not new, the recent incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks has put the problem in the national spotlight.

On April 12, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson were waiting for someone at when the manager called the police to report the men were trespassing after they didn’t make any purchases and refused to leave. Video of the incident went viral, and a public outcry followed.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson met with and apologized to men. Starbucks will close its 8,000-plus stores in the U.S. on May 29, to conduct "racial-bias” education geared toward preventing discrimination in their stores.

Breaking stereotypes

Corley would like to see police held accountable for unjust arrest, shootings and killings. Through the protest at 10 a.m. Saturday, Corley and Dayan said they hope to help break negative stereotypes of people of color. 

Dayan said students from the St. Louis region, including St. Louis University High School and Riverview Gardens High School, are protesting to show that youth in metro St. Louis are outraged by the systemic racism and its effect and they are not giving up until the problems are fixed.

“We’re using our white privilege for something instead of just sitting around waiting for change to happen, we’re going to make it happen. We gotta stand up for what is right,” Dayan said.

Follow Ashley Winters on Twitter  @areneewinters