Who's Who of Ferguson Protests: Leaders, Activists

Categories: Michael Brown

The Activists

If you fight the power, people will come fight it with you. Ferguson has been inundated with various activist groups. Some are more ideological than others. Others are so ideologically driven they're kind of scary.

Chad Garrison
John Rodgers and Paul Muhammad (right) of the Peacekeepers
The Peacekeepers

They found their calling in the words of Matthew 5:9 ("Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God"), and since August 10, they've been attempting to serve as a buffer between angry demonstrators and police.

"We were borne out of this crisis in an attempt to de-escalate the situation," says Paul Muhammad, whose group has grown to some ten volunteers. Muhammad says protesters have generally been receptive to the Peacekeepers calls for nonviolence. The police, unfortunately, have not been as predictable. Earlier this week one of the Peacekeepers was hit in the face with a rubber bullet fired by police in what Muhummad says could "only be described as an indiscriminate, drive-by shooting."

Ray Downs
Disciples of Justice's Alfred Long.
The Disciples of Justice

The Disciplines of Justice emerged last week as a sort of replacement Ferguson police force. Its members -- clad in identical yellow T-shirts -- could be seen standing in the median of West Florissant Avenue on Monday evening, directing demonstrators to "keep walking" (to avoid arrest) and to stay out of parking lots (again, to avoid arrest). Alfred Long Jr., one of a dozen or so members, says the group was started last week by community leaders and counts exhibitionist/social activist Anthony Shahid as its leader.

"What we're dong is trying to bring some unity, to police our streets with people that [residents] trust," says Long. Later that night he was jumped and searched by SWAT officers who thought he had a gun.

Danny Wicentowski
New Black Panther Party members directed traffic and kept the peace Thursday night.
The New Black Panther Party

The FBI report was chilling, and the KTVI (Channel 2) reporter was breathless. A member of the New Black Panther Party had landed in Ferguson, he told the camera, "advocating violence against law-enforcement officers." Who was he talking about? Chawn Kweli, the national chief of staff for the Atlanta-based organization.That night, Kweli was playing traffic guard, and about a half dozen other members -- some clad in black military gear and masks -- served as a protective barrier between protesters and the street. There's a St. Louis chapter as well, with the same imposing sense of style.

Kweli desclined to tell us how many New Black Panthers are actually in Ferguson, saying only that "we see all these people as party members. Everybody is deputized to take part in this community."

Though it appears the NBPP acts as a peaceful force in Ferguson, it does make some people uncomfortable. That's understandable reaction given that the group's Southern Poverty Law Center profile calls them "a virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization." (Interestingly, the profile hasn't been added to since 2012, which was shortly before Malik Shabbaz -- whose own SPLC profile features numerous past bigotries -- stepped down as chairman of the New Black Panther Party.)

Thumbnail image for RCP111.JPG
Danny Wicentowski
The Revolutionary Communist Party
Members of the Chicago-based Revolution Club arrived in Ferguson last Wednesday, and since then have been accused of actively working to destabilize Ferguson toward violence. Tensions are running high between other activists and the revolutionaries. On Monday night Anontio French even shoved an apparent RCP member to the ground.

In a statement released Tuesday on its website, the RCP argued that rebellion is the only way to resolve the injustices that led to Michael Brown's murder: "To everyone who really wants liberation, who wants a better day for our youth -- don't let them tamp this down. To the 'leaders' who attack the angry ones and tell us to trust in the system -- NO. If you can't do any better than that, get out of the way."

Tibetan Monks

If you still doubt the breadth of global attention on Ferguson, then you must not have met the six Tibetan monks who arrived at the West Florissant QuikTrip on Sunday. They came all the way from India.

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I'm just impressed with the way Obama has improved racial relations in this country. Almost as good as the way he improved health care.


Chappelle-Nadal is pure ghetto. No woman speaks like that unless they're scum like she is. We can easily guess who elected her to office! She's an absolute fool!

Judith Anthony
Judith Anthony

You left out the religious leaders like Rev. Traci Blackmon, Rev. Renita Marie Lamkin and C Jessel Strong and the Clergy Coalition all of whom have been on the ground and serving peacefully since the first day. This story is incomplete.


Certainly, the number of groups absent from this list is at least as long as those present, and no one expects any article to mention or even discover them all. But, the absence of the Saint Louis based Organization for Black Struggle (OBS) from this article is very troubling.  OBS has been working on reducing police harassment and police brutality in the Saint Louis region for more than 30 years.  They arrived Day One to help put this troubling event in context and have never left.  OBS is not the only major organization missing from the article, just the most troubling because when this tragedy has cycled out of the news, OBS will still be here, as it has been since 1980, working on the issues raised by Mike Brown's death.


Additionally, there are vast scores of artists who do community outreach work and have been in the area each day I've been there. Several poets in my personal circle have made it a point to be a near constant presence, have organized protests and have worked at notifying hundreds of people on social network sites of what is transpiring in Ferguson.  We have put down our pens and took to the streets in hopes of inspiring others to do the same.  

David Biernbaum
David Biernbaum

The real question is who are the leaders trying to unify and bring all people together?

Nikki Weinstein
Nikki Weinstein

And the religious community leadership (adding to Kellie list)

Kellie Willis
Kellie Willis

But you've missed several local key organizations under the activist category who have played a MAJOR role: Organizationfor BlackStruggle Missourians Organizing for a Reform and Empowerment, CAPCR, IFCLA. I see some of their faces in some of the photos you've used. These folks again are local and have been on the ground in the St. Louis community for many many years. And we are in it for the long run!

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