Ferguson Organizers Carry Momentum Into the Fall
Michael Brown’s murder this summer prompted a new wave of popular interest in state violence against communities of color. In mid-October, organizers from around the country gathered outside of St. Louis for the kick-off of what’s being called “Ferguson October.” Wednesday, or “O22,” marked a National Day of Protest against mass incarceration and police brutality called by organizers both in Ferguson and across the country.
As part of Wednesday’s events, organizers with Southerners on New Ground shut down two stretches of major highways in Atlanta. In Oakland, demonstrators staged a die-in outside of the city’s police department. Both cities, notably, are no strangers to protest around these issues. In 2009, another unarmed black man, Oscar Grant, was shot and killed in Oakland’s Fruitvale BART station. Two years later, protests both in Atlanta and throughout the United States around the execution of Troy Davis fueled the emergent Occupy movement.
A handful of local and national groups have coalesced around Ferguson October, some of the most notable being Hands Up United, the Organization for Black Struggle, Freedom Side and Color of Change. Beyond the organizations that have put energy into Ferguson October, however, hundreds of youth in Ferguson and the greater St. Louis area have been organizing nightly demonstrations on the corner of Canfield Avenue, where Michael Brown was shot dead. This energy has set the tone for broader organizing efforts, initiating conversations around the role of regional and national organizations’ relationship to locally-rooted struggles along with the multi-generational nature of the fight against systemic racism.
Media outlets this week have also speculated that the autopsy report showed Brown had reached for officer Darren Wilson’s gun, though the Associated Press confirmed with St. Louis city medical examiner Michael Graham — who was not involved with Brown’s autopsy — that the report offered “no forensic evidence” of a struggle. These allegations are just the latest in a series of justifications for Brown’s killing, from evidence of marijuana use to stolen cigarettes. #BlackLivesMatter, a banner under which many this summer’s demonstrations have unified, asserts that none of these incidents are enough to justify either the shooting of Michael Brown, or the larger targeting of black and brown communities. This larger banner is coming to include more than groups that traditionally focus on issues of racial justice.
The last few months’ mobilizations around racial justice have brought together a wider array of organizations around a cause than has been seen in recent years. In a movement where crisis moments — tragically — crop up regularly, the consistency and intensity of organizing in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death is a hopeful sign of things to come.