A protest in solidarity with the actions in Minneapolis sparked by the police killing of George Floyd was held in St. Louis on Thursday, May 28.
“A lot of people couldn't get to Minneapolis, and people got families and couldn't drive the eight-to-nine hours,” said Clara Holmes, one of the organizers.
“People want to go, but it's just so hard, due to long traveling. People got kids, and they can't just leave at the last minute when they really wanted to.”
The protest began at St. Louis City Hall at 2 p.m. Tory Russell promoted a press conference at 6 p.m. for the same cause, and the two actions were merged eventually.
Protesters marched all across downtown St. Louis, calling for the police responsible for Floyd’s death to be charged with murder. Many carried signs with messages such as “Black Lives Matter” and simply “George Floyd.” They chanted slogans familiar from Ferguson and Stockley verdict protests: “Whose streets? Our streets” and “No justice, no peace, no racist police!”
Most protestors wore masks. Though masks are a regular feature of protest actions to preserve anonymity – given the retaliation many protestors have faced, from police and others – in this case there also was a public health consideration. St. Louis has only started to lifted public-health orders to control the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Be safe,” Holmes said. “You know, we still have coronavirus going on – we're not going to forget about that.”
Most protestors marched six feet apart, following social-distancing guidelines. In the center of the action, a cluster of protestors marched more closely together.
“We just want to fight,” Holmes said. “And we just want those people to stop killing us, especially on unnecessary crimes going on with the police brutality. Really, stop.”
Streets and avenues they crossed included Locust, Washington and Pine. They marched onto I-44 near the riverfront and caused a small collision at 8:30 p.m. A Pontiac Grand Prix struck a Nissan Rogue that abruptly changed lanes to avoid cones that had been thrown onto the highway, disrupting traffic.
According to police, the driver of the Grand Prix complained of pain and sustained a minor laceration to his lip, and the other driver was uninjured. Medical treatment was refused at the scene.
Three police cars followed the protestors while they were on the highway, but they were not confronted. No arrests were made.
“The police department is committed to ensuring every citizen’s First Amendment rights while maintaining the safety of the protestors as well as uninvolved community members,” a police spokesperson said.
Near the end of the protest at approximately 10 p.m., about 15 protestors, including Holmes, had a civil conversation with an African-American police officer.
One protestor asked, “If you in fear for your life, can you legally kill a police officer?”
The officer responded, “You’d have to give me a better scenario.”
“OK!” another protestor said – “the man choking the dude with his knee.”
“We’ve had this discussion for a couple of days, and we were saying that if we were disturbed citizens, would we have gone and made physical contact with those cops to stop them from doing that?” the officer said.
“And, overwhelmingly, a lot of us were like, yeah. We probably would’ve gotten beaten down, but at least he wouldn’t be dead.”
Holmes said she was moved to action by the senseless killing of Floyd and “all the families who lost a loved one due to police brutality,” including her own.
“I lost a nephew that was killed by the police after Mike Brown, two days before his birthday, January 21 2015,” Holmes said. “He was killed and shot by two cops and cops. They just shot seven times. I just thought about everybody today.”
The protest finished at St. Louis Metropolitan Police Headquarters at Olive and 20th streets. An NWA song that is notoriously critical of the police was blasted outside of police headquarters from an SUV speaker. Protestors will meet there again at 6 p.m. Friday, May 29.