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Protesters Converge On St. Louis To Remember Brown's Death


It has been more than two months now since Michael Brown, an unarmed, black, 18-year-old, was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. While that officer awaits word on a possible indictment, demonstrators traveled to St. Louis for a series of rallies and protests this past weekend. The gatherings were mostly calm. And while the central purpose was to demand justice for Michael Brown, there were also cries for a national movement to address racial profiling. St. Louis Public Radio's Emanuele Berry reports.

ABRAHAMA KEYS: Hi, nice to meet you. I'm Abrahama.

EMANUELE BERRY, BYLINE: This is Abrahama Keys's house in South St. Louis. And this weekend, she opened her home to 11 strangers from across the country who traveled to the area for Ferguson October.

KEYS: We basically took every available spot that we can find, between my floor and the living room and dining room.

BERRY: Jessica Johnson got one of the coveted couches last night. She carpooled from Washington, D.C., to be part of demonstrations this weekend. She said she came because the challenges facing Ferguson are not unique.

JESSICA JOHNSON: It's extraordinarily important for us to connect what's happening in Ferguson, what's happening in St. Louis County, with what's happening in D.C. (laughter). Like, we have the same struggles and the same challenges, and every, you know, community does.

BERRY: While some people traveled across the country, many in attendance were from the greater St. Louis area. Organizers, a coalition of St. Louis-based groups, were anticipating 6,000 people for this weekend's demonstrations. Those numbers fell short. More than 2,000 people attended the weekend's biggest event - a march through downtown St. Louis, where demonstrators shouted, no justice, no peace.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: No justice, no peace, no racist police. No justice, no peace, no racist police.

BERRY: A reference to a still-unresolved Michael Brown case. Beyond marches, protests and rallies, this weekend also offered time for reflection through prayer, music and dialogue sessions on race, class and gender. Jenny Herman, a student at the University of Missouri Columbia, attended one of a series of small group discussions about race on Saturday. She said the conversation spurred a sense of action.

JENNY HERMAN: I mean, it is empowering being here and just getting caught up in it all - this feeling of community and banding together and truly rising up, I mean, this feeling that we are too big to fail.

BERRY: Herman says if anything surprised her about this weekend, it's been the relative calm between protesters and police. But that wasn't always the case over the past few days. Some demonstrations turned tense and arrests were made. At a press conference this weekend, St. Louis City Police Chief Sam Dotson said the vast majority of people coming out for events are there for the right reason.

SAM DOTSON: To have their voices heard, to express some sort of emotion, and I encourage that. But what we've also seen is a small number of people come in and use that platform to further their own agenda.

BERRY: Tory Russell, of the activist group Hands Up United, who helped organize Ferguson October, says he hopes those who traveled to St. Louis this weekend are inspired to take action at home.

TORY RUSSELL: I think a lot of people think that we are rallying only Mike Brown. We, you know, we don't want any blood spilled, you know. When we say black lives matter, we mean all black lives.

BERRY: Angela Jansen of California says she thinks this weekend will serve as motivation for her to continue the fight for justice.

ANGELA JANSEN: So I think that this weekend is going to be, like, a sustaining energy for me and hopefully for a lot of people, so that we can keep up the sludge, the slog, you know, the long, slow walk towards justice.

BERRY: A sentiment she hopes hundreds will take back to their communities after this weekend. For NPR News, I'm Emanuele Berry in St. Louis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Emanuele Berry is a 2012 graduate of Michigan State University. Prior to coming to St. Louis she worked as a talk show producer at WKAR Public Radio in Michigan. Emanuele also interned at National Public Radio, where she worked at the Arts and Information Desk. Her work has been recognized by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Radio Television Digital News Association and the Hearst Journalism Awards Program. Berry worked with St. Louis Public Radio from 2014 to 2015.