Bay Area Residents to Join ‘Black Life Matters’ Ride to Ferguson

People gather at Oakland City Hall Aug. 14 and hold a moment of silence for people killed by police five days after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. (Alex Emslie/KQED)
People gather at Oakland City Hall Aug. 14 and hold a moment of silence for people killed by police five days after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. (Alex Emslie/KQED)

About two dozen people from the Bay Area are leaving by convoy today for Ferguson, Missouri, joining hundreds from around the country who plan to descend on the St. Louis suburb this weekend.

The national gathering comes as Ferguson continues to reel from the Aug. 9 killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by white police Officer Darren Wilson, and from weeks of sustained clashes between police and angry crowds protesting the shooting.

This weekend is organized under the Net-based group Black Lives Matter, which seeks to bring people together “as part of a national call to end state violence against black people,” according to a media release.

What does a police shooting in Missouri have to do with the Bay Area? Plenty, according to organizer Alicia Garza. She lives in Oakland but is already in Ferguson prepping for this weekend.

“This can’t happen anymore,” she said. “There’s no way that we can continue to have unarmed black children be shot and killed in the streets in their communities.”

Garza said fury over Brown’s killing resonates with anger over recent officer-involved shootings in the Bay Area.

“In Oakland in particular, many people are still outraged about the murder of Oscar Grant,” she said.

The fatal shooting of Grant by BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle in 2009 sparked heated protests in Oakland and skirmishes with police that flared again when Mehserle was convicted of a lesser involuntary manslaughter charge, and again at his sentencing.

Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, said she plans to go to Ferguson soon to support Michael Brown’s family.

“I look at Oscar’s case and I look at Michael Brown’s case and see similarities,” she said. “First it’s taken this long to bring up any charge against the officer. Second, every day there’s something new developing with why he shot this young man, same thing with Oscar. Then you go through a phase of demonizing the young man who was shot, same thing with Oscar.”

Black Lives Matter is seeking to change what the group says is a “systemic pattern of anti-black law enforcement violence in the U.S.” Other demands include disarming police of weapons handed down from the military, releasing the names of officers involved in killings, and redirecting law enforcement spending to impoverished African-American communities.

Garza said the next steps for the group will likely be determined this weekend, but she hopes the message will spread out across the country.

“So that we make sure that places like Ferguson, Missouri, are not isolated from places like Oakland, California, or places like Chicago, Illinois,” she said.

A spokesman for St. Louis County Police said law enforcement agencies in Ferguson are aware of the gathering planned for Labor Day weekend, but they’re not commenting on what the police response may be.

St. Louis County arrest records list 218 bookings related to Ferguson protests between Brown’s shooting on Aug. 9 and Aug. 23. The majority are misdemeanor refusal to disperse charges, with other arrests for burglary and possession of possible burglary tools, receiving stolen property, unlawful use of a weapon, trespassing, assault, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and outstanding warrants.

KQED has been able to confirm that four of those arrested listed a California city of residence, and all four were for refusal to disperse. One is from San Francisco, one from Pasadena, one from Valencia and one from San Diego.

Johnson said despite the difficulty posed by looters and people seeking to commit other crimes, protesting killings by police is necessary, in the Bay Area and Ferguson.

“Because of that, it was able to be brought to the public, and the public, seeing what happened, knew it was wrong and took action,” she said.

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  • Mel

    Yawn. Stories like this are why no intelligent person takes KQED seriously.

    • Joe Jackson

      I note that your proposition offers no supporting information whatsoever – making it nothing but an opinion. You provide no evidence that “no intelligent person takes KQED seriously” – no data, no studies, no references to others who may be able to shed light on the topic. I find opinions to be great myself. But, I do believe it interesting that your opinion implicitly questions the intellectual quality of KQED’s efforts – while the very structure of that opinion fails to model intellectually developed and logically sound conclusions.

      Where i come from, we’d refer to this dynamic as, “The kettle calling the pot black”

      • Mel

        Joe, while I appreciate your attempt to be witty, your words are just an opinion, too. That’s what this section of the article is about – opinions. And you’re correct in presuming that I do indeed question KQED’s “intellectual quality.” I don’t believe they have any.

        • Joe Jackson

          Like I said, “I find opinions to be great myself.”

          I personally love KQED and PBS overall as one of many sources to information. I believe having multiple frameworks and standpoints to a specific issue, event or problem permits me a better chance of understanding the various impacted parties. I’ll take my fox, with my cnn, with my PBS, with my colorlines, with my BBC and Al Jazeera in one stew please.

Author

Alex Emslie

Alex Emslie is a news reporter focused on criminal justice policy, policing and legal issues. He left Colorado and a career as a carpenter in 2008 to study journalism at community college in San Francisco. He then graduated from San Francisco State University's journalism program with a minor in criminal justice studies. Emslie contributed to several Bay Area newspapers and online news outlets before joining KQED in 2013. He loves multimedia reporting, publishing source documents and transparency. He can be reached at aemslie@kqed.org and followed via @SFNewsReporter.

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