Florissant protest

Protesters in Florissant on Tuesday, June 9.

“Where’s Josh?” A group of protestors called out the rhetorical question in unison.

For the third day in a row, they gathered at the Florissant police station on Tuesday to make a plea for justice.

The “Josh” is Florissant detective Joshua Smith. He was identified as the cop who ran an unmarked car over a 20-year-old man in Dellwood before violently arresting him on June 2.

Residential security camera footage of the disturbing incident was obtained by Real STL News – who broke the story and shared the footage through their social media channels. The video clip has since gone viral and put the region back in the national spotlight in the conversation of police abuse against African Americans.

The man was hospitalized, and Smith has since been suspended without pay.

On Tuesday, demonstrators gathered to ask the Florissant Police Department to arrest and charge Smith. Organized by Respect Us, about 150 people from a spectrum of races and ages stood at the closed ten-foot iron gate that surrounded the perimeter of the police station. Their chants for justice and peaceful demand for action were met by the stares of about a half-dozen white National Guardsmen in full protective gear and armed with rifles. 

“We’re angry, we’re passionate (but) we don’t want to hurt y’all,” said protestor Skylar through a bullhorn. “But just because the color of my skin, you think I want to hurt you? Come on,” she said, adding, “I’m not a threat to you.”

But many of the protestors talked about the threats they felt. Among chants of “No justice, no peace,” and “I believe we will win,” the gathering called out for the need to decriminalize marijuana, dismantle the school to prison pipeline system and defund the police.

Some just talked about being sick and tired of unchecked racism and police brutality following the fatal arrest of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd’s death – which was the result of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes – sparked protests around the globe. He was laid to rest earlier today in his hometown of Houston, Texas.

“We fed up,” said Cathy “Mama Cat” Daniels.

“Can’t take it no more,” the crowd called back.

“We fired up,” Mama Cat yelled out.

“Can’t take it no more,” they answered.

As protestors began to march, they were faced with barricades blocking the entrances of the police station. Protestors moved the barriers into the street and linked arms as they marched in solidarity down Lindbergh Boulevard. They employed the effective tactic of placing white allies in the front line as a protective barrier.

When night fell, protestors laid down their signs and their bodies in the middle of a Florissant street, staging a “die-in” to commemorate the death of so many black men and women at the hands of the police.

Chants of “I can’t breathe” filled the darkening sky as protestors vowed to return every night until justice is served and Smith is held accountable.

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