As I write, helicopters circle around in small loops above Shaw, where an off-duty St. Louis cop killed 18 year old Vonderrick Myers Wednesday night, just around the corner from where I’m staying this weekend. I visited Vonderrick’s memorial up close this afternoon. It was disjointing to see a life so young be memorialized. In what kind of world do 18 year olds need to say goodbye to their friends? Right across the street from where police assassinated Vonderrick was a sign saying “Police order – No loitering.” The juxtaposition could not have been starker or more apt. On one corner, an homage to the life of a young black man; on the other, a reminder that this society values property and “order” over black life.
Today was an interesting mix on the spectrum of organizing for Mike Brown and the larger issues his execution represents. The march was smaller than I’d expected, given that this weekend had national callout behind it. Even with that, though, it was inspiring to see how many different communities – from labor to Asian Americans to socialists to grassroots black groups – came out in support. I appreciated that even though groups like the Organization for Black Struggle invited the Palestine contingent to participate, that our contingent took its place in the very rear of the procession. I’d initially messed up the hashtag for our group my first night here, mistakenly tweeting #Ferguson2Palestine. I realized late Friday night that the correct hashtag is #Palestine2Ferguson, which really centers where the attention of this work should be directed.
To hear Palestinian-Americans say at the rally that “black liberation is liberation for us all,” to hear folks from Ferguson say that people from Palestine were the first to reach out to them on how to deal with teargas, to hear people say that this movement is larger than Mike Brown and larger than Ferguson, that people here are trying to make things better for the whole world was also inspiring.
In front of the police station in Ferguson late at night I met the man from Ferguson I’d seen waving a Palestinian flag on Twitter in the immediate aftermath of Mike Brown’s killing. Two other black folks from Ferguson were commenting that he was confused, holding both a Pan African flag and the Palestinian flag and went to ask him about it. He said he wasn’t confused, that the tear gas was made by the same company and targeted both communities and that the two struggles were the same. The two folks eventually agreed with him and continued on talking. I tweeted about this exchange because it came directly from the people most affected by what’s happening. To me, this statement is not to say that the situations are exactly the same, but that they represent two people struggling for their humanity to be recognized by the larger world. And that’s what’s been so inspiring about participating in this weekend so far.