Local News

St. Louis, Durham and the country rally for peace

Posted August 14, 2014 7:22 p.m. EDT
Updated August 17, 2014 4:11 p.m. EDT

— In front of the St. Louis Gateway Arch, outside the old courthouse in downtown Durham and throughout the country, groups large and small assembled Thursday night for one purpose – peace.

The effort – part of the Nationwide Moment of Silence for Victims of Police Brutality – comes after days of rioting and looting in Ferguson, Mo., the St. Louis suburb where a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager on Saturday.

The incident incited racial tensions in the small city. While Ferguson is nearly 70 percent black, the police department is nearly all-white.

Images of police in riot gear pointing assault rifles at protesters and crowds being diffused with tear gas filled television screens and news sites across the country this week. The incident has also spawned international interest, including coverage from BBC News and Al Jazeera.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the Missouri State Highway Patrol to oversee police operations in the city instead of the St. Louis County police.

On Main Street in Durham, hundreds observed a moment of silence at 7:20 p.m. Attendees were asked to wear a red ribbon to show solidarity.

Stacy Scott attended the event with her two daughters, ages 4 and 6.

“I wanted to come out tonight so my children could see this is what America is right now,” she said. “For it to be happening again 50 years later, it’s like wow, we are living in the same time as our parents and our parents’ parents grew up in.”

Michael Brown, 18, was with a friend when confronted by a Ferguson police officer for walking in the middle of the street. What happened next is under dispute – witnesses said Brown’s hands were in the air when he was shot. Police said Brown was shot during a scuffle over the officer’s gun.

The officer’s name has not been released, which some say has helped fuel the violent protests. CNN reports that the officer's name may be released Friday.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday said federal officials, including the FBI, are investigating the incident with local authorities. He added there’s “no excuse” for violence from police or protesters.

“We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds,” he said. “Along with our prayers, that’s what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve.”

During the Durham event, attendees raised their arms in the air – witnesses said Brown's arms were in the air when he was shot. They also brought signs that read “don’t shoot.”

Rachel Storer wrote the phrase on her upper chest.

“Hopefully we can make a change not only in NC, but around the country,” she said.

Lamond Lilly, a local activist who was first to speak at the event, mentioned Durham protests earlier this year that resulted in tear gas and officers sporting riot gear. Jesus Huerta, 17, died in Nov. 2013 after shooting himself while handcuffed in the back of a police car. The incident led to multiple marches ending in arrest and causing damage to police cars and a police building.

Darrell Johnson, who organized Thursday's event, said what happened in Ferguson ignited a call to action.

“We are grateful that we could collect a number of people that are all about the same cause, but we just hope the work doesn’t stop here,” he said.

For Scott, the Durham mother, she hopes police and race relations improve across the country.

“I want to help,” she said. “What can I do as a black woman, as a mother, three daughters, who wants to see her children grow up and not have to worry about being shot?”