Columbia rally for Michael Brown aims civil rights message at new generation

Thursday, August 21, 2014 | 11:21 p.m. CDT; updated 10:11 a.m. CDT, Friday, August 22, 2014
Members of the Columbia community gathered Thursday to show support for Michael Brown, who was shot and killed Aug. 9 in St. Louis. The rally took place outside the Boone County Courthouse.
*UPDATE: This story has been updated to include details of the police presence.

McCaskill calls Senate hearing on militarization

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., will lead a Senate hearing in September in response to the use of military-grade equipment by police in confrontations with protestors in Ferguson, Mo.

Federal programs such as the Defense Department’s Excess Property Program, also known as the 1033 Program, provide local police departments with surplus military equipment such as armored vehicles and grenade launchers.

Since 2007, the Pentagon has transferred two Humvees, one generator and one cargo trailer to the Ferguson Police Department, said Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, in a press conference on Tuesday.

St. Louis County, which includes Ferguson, has received six pistols, 12 rifles, 15 weapon sites, an EOD robot, three helicopters, seven Humvees and two night-vision devices.

Details of McCaskill’s hearing will be released in coming days.

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COLUMBIA — In 1977, Princeton graduate student C.W. Dawson Jr. was pulled over in Trenton, N.J. The police officer told him that he matched the description of a robbery suspect. Dawson said that next thing he knew, he was thrown into the back of the police vehicle.

"I got stopped for D.W.B.," Dawson said. "Driving while black."

Fast-forward to 2010. Graduate student Dawson had earned a doctoral degree and was lecturing on social and political issues in philosophy at a conference in New York City.

"I get stopped, and I'm still fitting a description," said Dawson, currently a minister with Dawson Journeys Ministry. "The point? It still goes on."

On Thursday evening, Dawson was one of several speakers at an NAACP-sponsored rally outside the Boone County Courthouse. Nearly two weeks after Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, people came together to demand justice, to assert their place in the decadeslong battle for civil rights and to show support for Brown's family.

Rallygoers convened at 6 p.m. as volunteers passed out water bottles to battle the 90-degree heat. The diverse audience of several hundred filled up the amphitheater outside the courthouse, spilling onto the grass and surrounding ledges. College students stood with their bikes, and children climbed on statues. Many attendees held signs reading "End police brutality now" and "Cameras see more than color." Police were absent from the scene.

The evening began with chants of "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" and what has become a common rally cry for Ferguson protesters: "Hands up, don't shoot!"

Speakers demanded more transparency from St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch into the investigation of Brown's shooting. They also demanded that the officer who shot Brown be held responsible.

"Why are they doing this behind closed doors? Because when you do it in front of a grand jury, you don't get to see anything," said David Tyson Smith, attorney at Smith & Parnell LLC. "This officer should be arrested. There should be a public hearing."

Speakers also called for McCulloch to step aside in favor of a special prosecutor.

Mary Ratliff, the NAACP Missouri State Conference president, compared the rally to protests during the 1960s.

"We are training our young people," Ratliff said. "Many times, young people didn't realize we had to fight for them to sit at the restaurant, fight for them to be able to go to the restrooms. This has let them know that the fight must go on. Every generation must fight."

Like many '60s-era protests, attendees joined together in song a few times during the course of the evening.

Near the beginning of the rally, Columbia resident Lucretia Murray led the crowd in the singing of the civil rights era hymn "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round."

"It was one that was sung hundreds and hundreds of times during the civil rights movement," Murray said. "We're fighting for some of the same things, and I was just talking to my children last night, and they were saying, 'Well, didn't Poppy and Grandma fight for these things already?' Well, yes, and the fact of the matter is that it might be an ongoing battle for the rest of our lives."

Timothy Gist, a senior at Columbia College and member of the MU NAACP, was one of many from the younger generation who attended the rally.

Gist, who is originally from St. Louis, believes that strength comes in numbers.

"I feel like if the people of Columbia apply the right amount of pressure on the people who have political power, you are able to add more pressure to law enforcement, to the prosecuting attorney,"  Gist said.

Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis NAACP, has spoken to members of the Brown family on multiple occasions and said they were overwhelmed and thankful for the displays of support that have occurred nationwide over the past couple of weeks.

“They thought it was amazing that the rest of the country and these folks from all over the world are sympathizing to support their cause for justice in finding out what happened to their son,” Pruitt said. “They hope that this will prevent this happening to any other child in the future.”

Dawson found hope in the show of solidarity that brought different races, genders, religions and sexual orientations together in support of a common goal.

"We will put our hands up," Dawson said. "Because it used to mean that we surrender. We hold our hands up to signify that we're still here. We hold our hands up to let the world know that we are somebody, because you can imprison us, you can shoot at us, you can kill somebody; we hold our hands up to say no more."

Supervising editor is Landon Woodroof.

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Skip Yates August 22, 2014 | 2:40 p.m.

At this point, was there really any doubt that this kid was a thug? Despite the news media printing a photo of him in his graduating HS photo, others do exist. There is also a photo of him and his running mate, same one he was with in robbing the store before the shooting incident, with his booze, money and handgun flashing the gang sign. Does any, ANY, newspaper have the guts to publish that? Of course not! Gov. Nixon's comments were shameful and should have gotten the attention of every law enforcement officer in Missouri. But, hey, as one of Obama's folks said, don't let a tragedy go to waste. And, the kids at MU fall in line.

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