by Zaki Baruti, Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition
Michael Brown’s “death has sparked a movement to change the oppressive conditions under which Black youth live, including being targeted by the police,” said attorney Eric Vickers, a member of the Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition, at a press conference Monday morning in front of the St. Louis County Justice Center, according to the St. Louis American. “I think we all have an obligation to play a role in this movement.”
Vickers said they will assemble on Wednesday, Sept. 10, at 3 p.m. at the intersection of Interstate 70 and Hanley Road.
“I want to thank the youth leadership that has come to the forefront,” he said. “Our obligation is to support them, to use our experience in civil disobedience to help bring forward their desire to change the system.”
Frequently asked questions about Highway 70 shutdown
- Q: Is the planned shutdown action a threat to the governor?
A: No. The shutdown action is the result of his inaction in responding to the pleas for a special prosecutor.
- Q: If the governor agrees to a special prosecutor, will the shutdown be called off?
A: No. The governor was given an opportunity to avert the shutdown action, and he chose to ignore it. The decision to appoint a special prosecutor in this case is a moral decision, not a political one. If the governor decides to appoint a special prosecutor, then he will only have done what is morally right.
- Q: Why a shutdown of the highway?
A: Because when all avenues for change within the system have been appealed to and rejected, then the next step and recourse to effect the change is civil disobedience.
- Q: Why Interstate 70?
A: Interstate 70 provides the access to Ferguson, and in addition it has symbolic importance as the first federal highway initiated under President Eisenhower, who forced a state governor to stop discriminating against Blacks by sending federal troops to Arkansas. Also, the intersection of I-70 and Hanley – the point of assembly for the shutdown on Sept. 10 – is where once stood the Jack in the Box, where, in 2000, two unarmed Black men were gunned down in their car by police officers, and St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch chose not to bring any action against those officers, notwithstanding the findings of an FBI investigation that those officers had lied.
- Q: Will the shutdown action be peaceable?
A: A peaceable civil disobedience shutdown is planned – similar to the 1999 shutdown of I-70 – however, given the manner in which the police provoked peaceful demonstrators in Ferguson, there can be no guarantees that the protest will proceed peaceably. The protesters will conduct themselves in a peaceable and orderly manner. We do not control how the authorities will react.
- Q: Won’t this inconvenience innocent commuters?
A: Yes. Their inconvenience is a small sacrifice in the cause for justice for Michael Brown. See Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” for the best explanation of when and why civil disobedience is necessary.
- Q: If the governor should try to shift the decision back to McCulloch to decide if he will recuse himself from Michael Brown case, will the shutdown action continue?
A: Absolutely. We will not let the governor’s avoidance in making this critical decision for the state of Missouri deter us from taking action to have a special prosecutor, which is to us a moral imperative.
- Q: Who is WE?
A: Those who organized the 1999 I-70 Shutdown and warriors of like mind and spirit.
Other frequently asked questions by media in these matters
Q: Will the shutdown action cause racial division?
A: No. However, it will expose underlying racial divisions that already exist unconsciously, such as the scientifically based fact that white police officers are more predisposed to shoot a Black person than a white person in the same situation.
Q: Will the shutdown action increase racial tension?
A: Of course. However, “creative tension” as Martin Luther King Jr. described this protest process, is essential for transformative change and justice.
Q: Are whites welcome to participate in the shutdown?
A: Absolutely, and some have already signed up for the Sept. 10 demonstration. The appointment of a special prosecutor is an issue of fundamental fairness in our legal system. This is a moral cause for all Americans, irrespective of race.
Q: How many do you expect to come for the shutdown?
A: A multitude.
The Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition can be reached on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Justice-for-Michael-Brown-Leadership-Coalition/550146281777532.