Written by Justin Thompson
As someone who was on the ground in Ferguson, Mo. this weekend, I think it’s important to give a firsthand account of what is actually happening. If you have been following this story in the media, you can see how convoluted and complex this situation is. I wanted to give those who wanted to be on the ground or might be curious about the conditions on the ground an analysis of this moment.
Joseph Schumpeter once wrote:
“The spirit of a people, its cultural level, its social structure, the deeds its policy may prepare—all this and more is written in its history, stripped of all phrases. He who knows how to listen to its message here discerns the thunder of world history more clearly than anywhere else.”
The spirit of the people in Ferguson and St. Louis is one of charity, goodwill and fraternity. Love is the only word I can think of to describe our reception as Mississippians in Missouri. You could see the emotion overtake their faces as and when we told the people how far we had come just to support them. They went out of their way to show us love and to make us feel welcome from our front desk clerk at the hotel to gas station attendants and the cashiers at restaurants.
At the first rally we attended, we noticed a rainbow of people standing in solidarity for the cause. People of all races, creeds, religions and ages had put their differences aside to seek justice for a young African American man who was cut down much before his time. After this rally Amnesty International taught skills on how to safely handle a tear gas attack, they explained to us what our rights are under state law and that there was a fund to bail us out if we were imprisoned.
The second event we attended was a march down the street that Mike Brown was killed on. As we made it down the street we noticed there were thousands of people walking straight towards us chanting “Hands up, DON’T SHOOT.” My team and I joined this march and felt the true spirit of this movement. There was no hate, no calls for violence – only love and fraternity.
There are so many perceptions of this movement outside of Ferguson. Many people view these protests as problematic and counterproductive. These people view the demonstrations in that light because they are not there.
They didn’t witness the group of Ferguson residents grilling free hotdogs and sausages for the protesters.
They didn’t witness the protesters defending neighborhood businesses from looters and anarchists.
They didn’t witness a white highway patrolman playing basketball with black neighborhood kids.
They did not witness the New Black Panther Party member directing traffic when the Police refused to do so.
They did not witness what I can only describe as a beautiful struggle.
This was a beautiful moment when the people decided to look beyond what divides us, to speak up for someone who is silenced forever. What we are witnessing in Ferguson is what Henry David Thoreau called peaceful Civil Disobedience. What we are witnessing is the American people exercising their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble.
What we are witnessing is not a moment for revolutionaries, looters or anarchists. We are witnessing a moment where a group of people, regardless of their social backgrounds, have joined in one voice saying “The lives of Black Men matter and this will not pass.” As a black man in this country I can say I am grateful I had the chance to stand with protesters in Ferguson, they are a wonderful city of people.
I am proud to say I was a part of their beautiful struggle.
Justin Thompson is a writer and Senior Political Strategist with Thompson Kennebrew Consulting. He attends Mississippi College where he is studying Political Science.