Protesters gather in front of the St. Louis Police department Fri. May 29, 2020 in response to the killing of a black man in police custody caught on camera in Minneapolis, Mn. this week. Photo by Wiley Price / St. Louis American

On May 30th, The National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression (NAARPR) and the St. Louis Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) stood on the steps of the Social Justice Center in solidarity and joined 45 cities across the country demanding justice on the National day of protest at the St. Louis City Justice Center at 2 p.m. 

Speakers included: Walle Amusa, Universal African Peoples Organization President Zaki Baruti, Senator Karla May, Treasurer Tishaura Jones, CBTU President Emeritus Lew Moye and more.

“You would think that we learned a lesson from Ferguson six years ago but it's become very apparent that we haven't,” Jones said. “And we will continue to use our voices as elected officials to call attention to this.”

Senator and Treasurer shared their perspectives as single mothers to black sons who now have to live in a country where their life can be taken by the same force who is supposed to protect and serve them.

“This directly relates to our existence as mothers,” Jones said. “You know that very well could have been either one of our boys and it still could be if we don't change the system.”

The two items on the peaceful rally’s agenda were protecting prisoners from COVID-19 infections and death by demanding the release of prisoners and condemning killings of African Americans.

“Judges and law enforcement officials need to take steps to begin to release in a safe, controlled manner those who are incarcerated, especially those who pose no threat to our communities,” Amusa said. 

Of the 1,930 COVID-19 cases reported in the city, 1,213 (or 62.8%) were black. Of the 130 victims of the pandemic, 81 (62.3%) were black. Only 45.9% of the city’s population is black, according to U.S. Census data.

“Prisons in the United States are turning into death camps because of the overwhelming majority of minorities that are imprisoned who are directly or indirectly exposed to COOVID-19,” Amusa said.

The alliance gathered to address police violence and the unlawful killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery as of recent, but the leaders emphasized the fact that this has been going on for decades, centuries even. 

“As opposed to us being hung from the trees, we’re just shot down like rabbits in the streets by these racist officers, and that's been ongoing,” Baruit said. 

“It's been ongoing since my first involvement in terms of organizing the community which came on the heels of the murder and assassination of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. It predates that as far as vigilante killings with Emmett Till as a young man that I became aware of him being lynched as he was lynched. And it just continues today all the way through.”

Moye directed his speech toward public officials such as the Mayor, the health department and police chiefs to change the pattern of police violence.

“All policemen aren't bad, but with those bad apples we need to clear them out,” Moye said. “But that police culture allows those bad apples to stay. I pointedly focused on the people in power to focus on those things in St. louis.”

Following the rally, the elder leaders showed their support on the frontlines of the Clayton to Delmar Loop protest. They marched on the highway with the assistance of police officers blocking the roads ahead and behind them. 

“A lot of white young people carried signs ‘Black Lives Matter,’ calling for an end to police brutality and calling for justice,” Amusa said. “Those actions are taking place all over the country, and I'm very happy to have been a part of the one in this city, and also the one in Clayton.”

During Rasheen Aldridge, Jr. and Reverend Darryl Gray’s speech at the loop, Gray mentioned that it appeared as though thousands of people had joined the march.

“They’re doing this all over the country,” Gray said. “When white people looked on TV and saw the video of the police officer looking right into the camera, [the police] got their knees on our necks and they are looking right into the camera and they are not flinching.”

Clayton differed from other St. Louis protests because it had a majority of non-black protestors. The marchers were diverse, and there were more signs that read “Silence is Violence.”

“Undivided we fall,” Aldridge said. “We don’t split off, we keep each other safe.”

There will be another protest at the St. Louis City Justice Center this afternoon on Monday, June 1 at  3:30 p.m. The title on the flier reads “Expect Us.”

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