The Rev. Darryl Gray said the police should be asked who is firing weapons and committing destruction at St. Louis protests after the organized non-violent actions conclude.
“They have infiltrated our organizations, so they ought to know who is responsible,” Gray, a protest organizer and adviser to the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition, said outside St. Louis City Hall on Tuesday, June 2.
Gray spoke with Bishop Elijah H. Hankerson III, president of the Clergy Coalition, and state Rep. Rasheen Aldridge (D-St. Louis), also a protest organizer. They shared a united message: there are organized, non-violent protests and disorganized acts of violence. They are aware of no one organizing acts of violence or destruction from within the protest movement.
“There is a push for justice, and then there is a criminal element,” Hankerson said. “They are two different elements altogether. Others would like to hijack this movement, which is a valid movement. What happened to George Floyd — that was a murder. We don’t want anyone hiding behind our movement. Because once it’s hijacked, people will try to make the whole thing out to be invalid.”
Aldridge said he understands the pain and anger that could drive someone to violence and destruction against this system — but he does not condone it and knows of no one organizing or committing violent or destructive acts.
Aldridge emphasized “the long haul,” the use of disruptive protests as a long-term strategy to force change in a system that has been extremely resistant to change. Over this long haul, he said, until changes are made in the criminal justice system — and the provision of equitable opportunities for African Americans — there will be more disruption and possibly worse.
“We’re gonna have some bad days,” Aldridge said. “It’s a long haul. There are going to be bumps and bruises. We just need to keep pushing and trying to get our message across.”
Aldridge said the Expect Us coalition, that also includes Gray, would take Tuesday as a day for self-care. They both said they could not speak for other organizers or activists.
Gray said he had been asked that morning when the protests would stop.
“When will it stop?” he said. “When can I make that promise? When you can promise there will be no more killing of unarmed black people by the police. Don’t expect us to make a promise we can’t keep when you are making a promise that you can’t keep.”
Gray said that city and county officials as well as the governor have made it clear that they are ready to talk. “We’ll make the determination when we are ready to talk,” Gray said.
Gray said they have played a role in keeping Gov. Parson from calling the Missouri National Guard in to police protests in St. Louis. Aldridge and Gray stressed that the National Guard would only make matters worse.
While they were talking, they were not aware that Mayor Krewson was announcing a curfew. from 9 p.m. 6 a.m. That, too, is a bad idea, they said.
“A curfew would be like kettling people,” Aldridge said. “People won’t abide by it. Then the police will pick and choose who to arrest. It will only make it worse.”
Gray said curfew enforcement will also give city officials another opportunity to confuse civil disobedience with unprincipled lawlessness.
“A curfew sets up a situation where people will violate the curfew as an act of civil disobedience,” Gray said. “Don’t lump the group violating the curfew as an act of civil disobedience in with those who violate the curfew for their own purposes.”