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Away From the Bullhorns, Protesters Wait for Answers Outside Ferguson's Police Station Away From the Bullhorns, Protesters Wait for Answers Outside Ferguson'...

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Away From the Bullhorns, Protesters Wait for Answers Outside Ferguson's Police Station

A group has been protesting outside the Missouri suburb’s police department since Michael Brown’s death at the hands of an officer. “It’s about tyranny.”

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Michael Brown's family look on as Rev. Al Sharpton and other community organizers address a crowd at Greater St. Mark Missionary Church.(Reena Flores / National Journal)

FERGUSON, Mo.—Away from the broken glass and tear gas, away from Rev. Al Sharpton's packed rally at a church less than two miles from the spot in this St. Louis suburb where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot dead by a police officer Saturday afternoon, a different kind of protest has taken shape.

A quieter group of people stand all day and night on the sidewalk across from the Ferguson police station. Some are black, some are white. Some are young, some are old. Many of them think the boisterous rallies and media attention have gotten out of control. They just want to make sure police know they are still waiting for answers.

Sharpton: 'We Are Going to Establish Order Ourselves'
Rev. Al Sharpton calls for one hundred young men to serve as "Disciples of Justice" in Ferguson, Missouri.   (Reena Flores / National Journal)

 

Among them is Laura Charles, who has spent the last few nights outside here. The 36-year-old music producer sits in a blue canvas chair holding a hand-scrawled sign: "This is not about racism, It's about tyranny."

Charles, who is black, disagrees with the idea that the police shooting reflects deep-seated racism in the police force of the beloved town where she grew up. The horrific shooting is more likely a sign that police power has gone unchecked and that officers have lost touch with the community, she said. 

Charles, outside the police station Tuesday. (Alexia Campbell)

 

 

"This is not a racist city," she said, smoking menthol cigarettes late Tuesday outside the station. "[Police] don't know the community anymore so they don't care about the community."

Charles has seen Ferguson change since her childhood days when police officers knew most people by name. She moved to the town with her parents in 1979 and remembers being one of the only black children at Central Elementary School. Her father, a U.S. Army veteran, wanted Charles and her sister to attend the good public schools he never could, she said. Other black families from St. Louis would soon join them in Ferguson as part of one of the country's most ambitious plans to desegregate the area's public schools.

Though Missouri public schools were officially desegregated along with the rest in the country in 1954, education officials in St. Louis made few efforts to integrate the black, inner-city students into the affluent white public schools in St. Louis County. A civil-rights lawsuit filed against the city's school board in the early 1970s eventually ended with a federal court ruling that the school board had not done enough to desegregate classrooms. As part of the settlement, St. Louis in 1983 began transferring thousands of black students to county schools.

Back then, Ferguson had no black police officers, but many officers lived in the town and therefore belonged to the community, Charles said. That relationship seemed to start unraveling as white families began moving west of St. Louis, she said. By the time Charles was in sixth grade, most of her white friends had moved away.

 

Now, nearly two-thirds of Ferguson's residents are black, but only three of the suburb's 53 commissioned officers in the police force are. Though racial tension played a large role in the town's history, Charles said, the recent police shooting was the act of one police officer who does not represent the entire town.

Gidget Love agrees. The 42-year-old woman moved to the St. Louis suburbs when she was in middle school as part of the desegregation plan. She says she thinks the media pay more attention to the views of the looters and loudmouths.

But not everyone is tired of the cameras. At the Sharpton rally Tuesday evening at Greater St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church, Amari Sneferu, of St. Louis, said he does not demonize the people who looted businesses and rioted in the streets. After all, he said, the looters brought all the television crews and media attention to Michael Brown's death.

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"[They] are creating the fear that's needed to get the respect and to get the action from the police and from the public administrations that are defending and protecting this man, who is obviously a murderer."

Love and Charles just want police to tell them who shot Brown and why they hired a police officer who would do such a thing. Love wishes the white, affluent families who live in the historic brick homes near the police station would join them out in the street.

"They're sitting there in their plantation homes," she said. "You'd think they would want answers, too."

Across the street, two uniformed police officers sat in silence under a fluorescent light behind the station. The protesters across the street don't bother them, said Ferguson Police Sgt. William Mudd.

"They're exercising their right to free speech," he said. Early Wednesday morning, a St. Louis County police officer reportedly shot and critically wounded a man in Ferguson who, police say, pointed a handgun at the officer.

As to the officers' experience over the last few days, Mudd simply said, "We're hanging in there," and declined to answer further questions.

This story was updated at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Don't Miss Today's Top Stories

Excellent!"

Rick, Executive Director for Policy

Concise coverage of everything I wish I had hours to read about."

Chuck, Graduate Student

The day's action in one quick read."

Stacy, Director of Communications

I find them informative and appreciate the daily news updates and enjoy the humor as well."

Richard, VP of Government Affairs

Chock full of usable information on today's issues. "

Michael, Executive Director

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