Thursday, August 14, 2014

Recap: Big, peaceful rally at Meridian Hill Park for Mike Brown and Ferguson, Mo.

This Thursday night starting at 7, hundreds of people came together in Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park in solidarity of Mike Brown, the teenager killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri. The rally was a nice scene: many people united by anger and pain, agreeing to do something non-violently about it.

It was difficult to judge the crowd size, but to me it was at least a thousand people, and there was a lot of diversity -- young and old, black and white. Folks filled the area around the Joan of Arc statue, stretching into the playing field. Starting about 7pm, a couple of young organizers led the crowd in a number of call-and-response chants like "What side are you on, my people? We on the freedom side," while one of the main themes was non-violence: "turn anger into power and pain into organizing." Others talked about using this incident and the response as a launching pad to get things done. Chants included "black lives matter," and the organizers read stories of other young people who were shot by police.

That was followed by a moment of silence, which was somewhat interrupted by a couple of angry men shouting, despite being asked to be quiet repeatedly.

But rather than being an anti-police rally, it was more of a call to action and against police brutality. People focused much more on that, with chants like "hands up, don't shoot" and a poignant, emotional speech by another Howard student who said he was a friend of Mya White, a Howard student who was shot two days ago in Ferguson, where she was protesting. I tried to get his words, but this may be paraphrasing: "Do something, but don't do violence. Do your piece. You're here for a reason. Nobody asked you to come. This shit is crazy. Wake the fucking world up." Others talked about being respectful of others' pain and not listening to violent voices and organizers circulated sign-up sheets for people who wanted to do more.

All around, it seemed like a very positive but emotional event. Organizers talked about marching, but quickly changed their minds, maybe they didn't have a permit. People stayed in the area for about an hour, including some music and singing. A couple people yelled on a megaphone saying a civil war was coming and something about weapons, but those two were the tiny minority overall. There was a small police presence, maybe 4-6 officers, but the only time I saw them near the event was when a few were near one of the militant guys who was having a loud argument. After that, they were all farther away in the middle of the park chatting.

Overall, it was a good event about a sad topic. People were especially enthusiastic when speakers talked about organizing, and I hope they make that happen. See below for photos and tweets from the event.

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