ST. LOUIS (KPLR) – Local activists planned Monday to be a day of moral outrage. They targeted the U.S. Justice Department and a large corporation in Clayton. Leaders said society won’t heal from years of racial strife until everyone is treated equitably.
The day’s events began with a gathering a Christ Church Cathedral, an Episcopal landmark in downtown St. Louis. Local clergy organized a march from the Cathedral to the Eagleton Federal Courthouse on Tenth Street.
A crowd of about two hundred chanted and sang as they marched across downtown at lunch time. St. Louis police were in place to block traffic so the demonstrators could walk safely.
The group rallied peacefully on the steps of the Courthouse. But when dozens crossed a metal fence barricade and refused to leave, they were warned they would be arrested. A dozen Homeland Security Department officers held them back from the front doors. St. Louis City police arrived to arrest 57 individuals including nationally known activist Cornel West.
Two officers held cameras on poles and recorded the arrests and the crowd that frequently yelled disparaging chants at police.
The crowd included clergy from multiple denominations, blacks, whites and a variety of ages. St. Louisan Jan Roddy explained she was demonstrating her faith by participating in the march. She said she wanted to “bring more attention to what needs to be done at a federal level. “We have a federal epidemic of violence and a lack of democracy for African American Citizens,” she added.
St. Louis Rabbi Susan Talve spoke about the religious traditions that demanded fair treatment for all. Some participants passed around bottles of olive oil to anoint themselves and stones on the steps of the Courthouse as a symbol of their faith in justice.
Organizer Rev. Traci Blackmon, a member of the governor’s Ferguson Commission, said the group wanted to deliver a letter to U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan calling on the Justice Department to treat all citizens with dignity, to admit racial bias plays a part in law enforcement and to be sure officers are trained to understand different communities.
She said when he did not appear outside to accept the letter; some of the participants chose to make their point be crossing the barricade and being arrested.
The rally concluded with four and a half minutes of silence in remembrance of Mike Brown.