(Tef Poe at the Ferguson Is Everywhere benefit concert.)
Last night was a one of beauty, inspiration, anger, disgust and utter frustration all at the same time… After a long, reflective and somber day of memorials, silent marches, sermons and demonstrations, many were eager for what would’ve been Talib Kweli’s 4th free concert for the people of Ferguson…
Dubbed ‘Ferguson is Everywhere’, this was free concert to benefit Michael Brown’s family.. His father Mike Brown Sr was in attendance with many sporting shirts to his charity ‘Chosen For Change’..Folks were also asked to bring cans of food for the Books and Breakfast program put on by Hands Up United..
The line up featured local acts like Tef Poe, Thi’sl, T-Dubb and host of others alongside established acts like Immortal Technique, M1 of dead prez, Jessica Care More, Jasari X, Kenora Ross, Common, Pharaoh Monche, Bun B and Talib Kweli rocking to a live band.. It was hosted by Torry Russell of Hands Up United and Kayla Reed of OBS,
There were two dark clouds hanging over the event. The first were the clouds that brought lightening, storm warnings and torrential rains. In spite of the massive storm, folks arrived early and by 8pm the line stretched around the block. The mood inside was hot, muggy and festive. Many in attendance had been looking forward to this and as each act hit the stage they did not disappoint.. Everyone brought their A game…The event took place at the F#### which is near downtown St Louis on Locust street.
The other dark cloud, was the St Louis police union who voiced fears the event might attract “outside agitators” Former police officer turned politician Jeff Roorda, who tried to pass a bill last year that would keep the names of cops involved in shooting someone hidden from the public, was quoted as saying; “All these outside agitators that gave St. Louis a bad name in Ferguson will be back here, agitating again. As we’ve struggled for resolution, they’re going to be fomenting revolution.”
He asked the F#### owners to shut things down the event and not sell tickets.. Fortunately the club did not. The event was epic, healing and special. It was a night to remember..Also there were no tickets.. The event was free.
Across town in Ferguson at Greater St Marks Church, which was the cite of an earlier event, a jam packed house played host to a number of speakers including Cornel West, Rev Michael McBride, activist Bree Newsom, Reverent Tracy Blackman and Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou. There was a panel moderated by Marc Lamont Hill. The place was on fire… Eventually many from the church would make their way to the concert just as Talib took the stage.
The activist group Lost Voices was supposed to come, but word was sent that they were out in Ferguson in the pouring rain marching. Throughout the evening folks were getting word, large crowds were gathering on West Florissant. The details were scattered. First we heard there was looting and rioting, then we heard it was just turned up.. Written Jeff Chang, hit me as Pharaoh Monche wagon stage saying that things were getting hectic…
Just as Talib hit the stage, folks all over the F#### venue got the dreaded text, they did not want to see. The initial texts people got was a cop had shot and killed someone and it was madness. Then we heard little girl was shot.. Many of us immediately left for West Florissant as Talib was still on stage.. I rode with journalist Jamilah Lemieux who was able to skillfully bypass all the road blocks set up by police and get us onto West Florissant..
Once there we saw hundreds of people out in a tense stand off with police. They were in riot gear and a armored vehicle that underscored police militarization which hadn’t been seen in the days leading up to the Mike Brown death anniversary had returned.
There were two separate actions. Many were on the one side of West Florissant near the Fergurson Market while we were near Canfield. As to what took place was still scattered. No one had a definitive story.. An ambulance arrived to take away someone.. We believe it was the man who was shot by police and was still alive.
The rains had stopped and more folks arrived, shirts off, angry and bold as they marched straight up to the police… Harsh words were exchanged. One young brother apparently had some personal info on some of the officers and began sharing it with everyone within earshot.. You could see the police getting angry as he dug in more and more..
Soon a a few folks showed up with Bongo drums and began playing as folks started jumping around, getting super amped and chanting at police.. The line retreated and second scrimmage line was set up as the drums played louder. Next thing you know another armored vehicle arrived with police on loud speakers warning to disperse or chemical weapons would be used.
Pepper spray was used, folks got hit and everyone started running.. Police advanced as folks regrouped on the corner of Canfield drive and again re- approached the police lines inspire of the warnings.. Still amped, folks held their ground for another 30 minutes until police started shooting volleys of tear gas..
Sadly , many have grown used to the tear gas and knew how to shield themselves and so even in the clouds of smoke folks remained as police moved forward….
Word was sent that there would be a press conference in the City of Clayton.. Mind you it was now 2am.. The press conference was to take place at 2:30 am.. We rushed to get over there, where St Louis county police chief Jon Belmar gave their versions of things..
He said that they had gotten reports of looting and that police were overwhelmed. Reinforcements were sent. Among those sent were undercover officers who were ‘monitoring a shooter’. According to the chief, the undercovers reported to their commanding officers their concerns about the person who they were trailing..
Chief Belmar noted somehow during this gathering of people on West Florissant, the shooter who was being monitored, went off and got involved in a shootout with another group of men.. The chief said gunfire was exchanged for 45 seconds and then the suspect who the undercover were monitoring, tried to ‘excavate himself from the scene’.
The Chief said the undercovers got in an unmarked car and tried to confront the man, when he turned around and shot at them.. They said the suspect was pursued and eventually shot.. As of last night he was alive and in the hospital getting surgery..
At the press conference I asked the chief two questions.. 1-Were the undercover on hand to monitor shooters or protestors, since they were mixed up in the crowd. The chief told me they were there to monitor shooter. He said the shooters were criminals and not protestors. He said he and his men welcome folks to exercise their first amendment rights
I then asked, if the undercover identified other shooters since the guy they were following was involved in a shoot out? The Chief said ‘No one else was identified’.
Someone else asked the race of the undercover police officers. Chief Belmar refused to give details on that. He simply said his officers were experienced. He ended the press conference, but many of us were left wondering if this suspected shooter, knew the undercover officers in the unmarked car were officers or the folks he had just was just in a shoot out with.. None of us were able to ask that question..
Jeff Chang was on the scene last night on Ferguson Market side of West Florissant. This is what he saw.. He said there was a lot of confusion. When he arrived on West Florissant, lots of people were hanging out in a parking lot and for the most part seemed pretty mellow. The rains had stopped. The next thing you know folks started running and scattering and suddenly things escalated.
There was word that the 9-11 Beauty Salon had its windows busted and folks were taking stuff. City Councilman Antonio French was on hand and went over to try and calm things down as did a number of community elders..Next thing you know some sort of scuffle broke out and couple of shots rang out.. More shots rang out and people scattered. During all this a local news reporter got stomped by some people in the crowd..
Jeff said, he had no idea it was an officer involved shooting until he got back to his hotel and wondered if the melee was deliberately instigated. If we go by Chang’s time line, then one might ask when exactly did undercover officers arrive on the scene to monitor the shooter??
Right now at the time of this writing, a number of protests previous scheduled are set to jump off.. With the shooting from last night, now weighing on everyone’s minds, these protests are sure to be more intense.
Immortal Technique and Poison Pen
All photos courtesy of Davey D/Facebook