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IC residents head to Ferguson

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | OCTOBER 07, 2014 5:00 AM

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Iowa City residents will soon travel to Ferguson, Missouri, two months after protests erupted in the wake of a fatal shooting by a police officer.

Alecia Brooks, a member of the Black Voices project, and Iowa City residents Venson Currington II and Einna Ollutnev are organizing the travel for Saturday as part of the Ferguson October Weekend of Resistance, a nationwide effort to gather people in the St. Louis area to participate in rallies and protests related to the shooting of Michael Brown.

In early August, the African-American teenager was shot and killed by white police Officer Darren Wilson. Dispute arose over the circumstances, and unrest erupted around the town’s Florissant Road for two weeks focused on racial inequality and police brutality and militarization. 

Demonstrations have continued as media coverage has died down.

“I think it’s moved from Florissant … they’re really trying to press elected officials in stronger ways,” Currington said. “It’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff happening out there.”

So far, five Iowa City area residents have confirmed in person they will travel with the group. Organizers have raised $500 through GoFundMe and will rent out two 15-seat vans for transportation.

Roughly 5,000 people are participating in Ferguson October nationwide.

Law Professor Adrien Wing, the director of the University of Iowa Human Rights Center, emphasized the need for a “local connection” for anyone traveling to the area from elsewhere in the United States.

“It would be really important for whoever goes there from Iowa City to be connected to local people, to make sure what they’re doing would be welcome and relevant to what [locals] say their goals are,” she said.

She noted that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many Iowa City residents who were “linked” to the situation went down to New Orleans to help.

Organizers and attendees said those who go to Ferguson do not necessarily need an overt local connection, and they were readily welcomed when they traveled to Ferguson previously.

“The connection is Mike Brown,” Brooks said. “The connection is racism, anti-police brutality, anti-oppression. That’s how we’re connected to everyone there.”

Once in Missouri, participants will attend rallies mostly in St. Louis proper with a few events such as vigils and a concert in Ferguson and other surrounding towns. They will stay until the evening of Oct. 12.

Planned attendee Herold Young said when he was last in Ferguson, there were people from California, monks, and Communist Party members who did not necessarily have an immediate connection to local people but were still welcomed.

“I think what we’ve seen too much of in the past is that black lives don’t matter,” Brooks said. “Black lives do matter, and you can’t just go around engaging in these renegade police tactics and think that you’ll get off.”


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