CHICAGO–It was no ordinary day the Saturday morning after Black Friday at Rainbow-PUSH Coalition. Reverend Jackson spoke to the audience about the importance of why as a people we must stand up against the injustice witnessed in Ferguson. He spoke encouraging them to support Black-owned media where our story can be told, mentioning The Chicago Defender and Ebony and also advised everyone to think of them as Christmas gifts along with investing in an education insurance policy with Ariel Capital.
Then we were introduced to the powerful and outstanding Pastor Jamal Bryant, son of Bishop John Richard Bryant (pastor at St. Paul AME Church, Cambridge, MA) and Rev. Cecilia Williams-Bryant. Pastor Bryant presented a history lesson around the Ferguson, MO. Michael Brown case, noting that Dred Scott and Baptiste Pointe DuSable, both African-American men, are buried near Ferguson establishing a case for Black men who have historically been disrespected. Scott and DuSable initially were buried in unmarked graves regardless of their contribution to America. Bryant’s sermon was strong and dynamic, resonating with all who were present, reminding us that we are a strong, resilient people who keep standing up to the injustices thrown at us, “The police officer Darren Wilson said, ‘he kept coming so I kept shooting.'”
The failure to indict Darren Wilson is one more reason to stand up and face the racism that plagues America. He reminded us that we have to stop supporting those who disrespect us by not buying their products or services. This was in keeping with the nationwide boycott of Black Friday.
Following the forum’s program, members were organized and exited the building to assemble outside the civil rights organization’s South Side headquarters and lying down in the street. The crowd represented generations from 6 to 90.
Some 50 people led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, chanted, sang and called on the U.S. Justice Department to conduct a civil rights investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, MO. because his civil rights were ignored and disregarded.
“The civil rights of Michael Brown were violated,” Rev. Jackson said, “and it’s taking place around the country. It’s not just Michael Brown. It is a pattern.”
Initially, the Chicago Police attempted to keep the street open even though demonstrators had laid down in the street symbolic of Michael Brown, whose body had laid in the street four hours after having been shot unarmed. Rev. Jackson had a few words with them and they actually blocked Drexel St. to traffic as the protesters sang a litany of protest songs, including, “We Shall Not Be Moved” and “We Shall Overcome.”
At times, the crowd lying on the ground, as well as those standing, raised their hands in call and response action, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” Jackson would chant and the protesters would raise their arms and hands repeating the chants, as did the brothers and sisters in South Africa when they fought against Apartheid. The hands up gesture allows police officers to see that the demonstrators have no weapons and come in peace. At one point, Jackson sat up and from a seated position in the street, called on the Justice Department to conduct a civil rights investigation, saying the grand jury was corrupted.
“I would hope that our government would act and act now. I would hate to think what would happen if you had Black police maliciously killing white children in this way. The fact is, no one should kill anyone.We want to stop the violence and choose a more civilized relationship.”
Rev. Jackson spoke what most of us recognize and that is that the grand jury did not justly decide the fate of Darren Wilson, “The jury set Emmet Till’s killers free. The jury set Medgar Evers’ killers free. The jury set those who beat Rodney King free. Corrupted juries have corrupted results. We want a fair jury process. We would hope that the federal government would act now.”
Rev. Jackson was joined by Rev. Jamal Bryant, who called on people to continue protesting for weeks to come until justice is done.
“We started yesterday with a monumental move with Black Friday. Malls were closed. Sales were lackadaisical. It as not a one day effort.”
As he closed, Rev. Bryant said let’s add a new mantra, “Pants up, don’t loot to Hands up, don’t shoot.”
The peaceful demonstration was not the only demonstration. Downtown at the Water Towers, a diverse, mulicultural group of people protested and urged people not to shop to support the call for injustice exercised by the Michael Brown grand jury. And most importantly,peaceful demonstrations and protests around the country and the world took place inclusive of diverse ethnicities, nationalities and races. Ferguson protesters caught on video stated that while the police behave well on film as a PR move and report that the demonstrators act violently, they on the other hand act peacefully on and off camera.
Perhaps with all these changes to be implemented, the coming together of people across racial lines could be the best development that evolved from this tragedy and certainly a step forward to achieving the democracy we know America can truly be.