Who's Who of Ferguson Protests: Leaders, 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.
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."
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.
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.)
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."
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.