Why block interstate 70 in St. Louis during rush hour?
A post by Mike Kinman, Dean at Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal) in St. Louis
Why block I-70 during rush hour? If you really want to know, all you have to do is ask the action's co-organizer, Brittany Ferrell, one of our most brilliant and powerful young leaders. I am proud that Christ Church Cathedral was the staging area for this action. And when you hear her explanation of it, I hope you will be, too:
"The purpose of the I-70 shutdown was to perform an act of civil disobedience so bold, the people that would be affected would be the ones who would, on any other day, bypass the cries of society."
"It was carefully planned to bring awareness."
"It was designed to cause a blockade going into St. Charles county, a path of white flight and abandonment, as well as a blockade coming out of St. Charles, for those who fled from the harsh realities of St. Louis County and City but return for employment and education, opportunities many who reside in St. Louis County and City do not even have access to.
"We did it because now people have to talk about it."
"We did it because people in St. Louis like to believe that the injustice we've been keeping up so much racket about is isolated to Ferguson."
"We did it because the overall silence of those who choose to live day to day in their county that has explicitly rejected public transportation, who believe that where they have to go is so much more important than human life, their silence is deafening." - Brittany Ferrell
This year, we have had members of our Christ Church Cathedral family arrested for peacefully protesting, tear gassed inside a coffee shop and now body slammed onto a freeway in a clear use of excessive force. Thank you, Mike Aaul for standing up for what you believe in and putting your body on the line. You were clearly backing up with your hands up and not a threat to anyone when you were body slammed to the ground. I am grateful you were not seriously injured for you certainly could have been. To block a freeway in protest is to invite arrest -- that is the nature of civil disobedience. But it is not to invite assault. That is criminal ... or should be.
An open letter:
Dear angry lady who drove into protesters:
By Jennifer McCoy
I’m confused, angry lady.
When I faced you on I-70, I was anxiously holding hands with fellow protesters as you sat in your air-conditioned SUV. You screamed out your window that we should let you pass because you were late to a PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) meeting. I admit I snickered when you said it. As friends and I continued to stand on the highway, you mocked us and flipped us the bird, which is frankly understandable. You are entitled to vent your anger. After all, we were expressing our anger about police brutality right before your eyes. I agree the J.B. Hunt truck driver two lanes over honking his horn constantly to drown out our chants to express disapproval was really annoying.
And don’t misunderstand me, I get that you had somewhere you wanted to be right then. I understand your time is valuable. I know people had places to be. It’s just that your time isn’t the only thing of value. It seriously isn’t. In fact, your time is LESS valuable than black lives. What really struck me about you was the certainty that you deserved to not be inconvenienced. You acted so entitled to go about your business without delay. You could not see past anything other than what mattered to you in that moment. You were clearly unhinged we were blocking your way. I can see where you would find rush hour traffic delays as unbelievable and unfair as flight delays. Wrecks, a blown tire, a disabled car, people having seizures, folks standing up against systemic racism. The nerve of some people!
Do you act this way when traffic halts from a car wreck? Do you feel bad when you’re stuck in traffic and there’s a fatality up ahead? Senseless death should make you feel bad. When you are at the movies or reading a great book, do you cheer when the antagonist gets his way? I bet you cheer when the underdog succeeds. Why can you celebrate the underdog in fiction but not feel for human beings standing in front of you? I don’t know if you are necessarily overtly racist. I do know that you were pissed off and frustrated as hell. Do you think any of the protesters weren’t afraid that they might get run over? Do you think we put our bodies on the line to fuck you over for our amusement? I assure you that was not the case. We knew the risk. We knew you would be inconvenienced, but we thought bringing awareness to black people dying in police custody was worth it. I accept that you do not agree, but driving your car through a wall of human beings, into protesters, is not the answer. Maybe protesting isn’t the answer either, but people of conscience must try.
At another point you attempted to persuade us to let you pass by saying your husband was black and you had two black children. I responded that it was great your family was diverse and we were standing on the hot pavement risking arrest and bodily injury for THEM. For black people. For the black people you love. I don’t know what happened as you drove through the line of protesters. If you were struck or your car was damaged, that was not by design and I feel empathy for you. See, is that so hard? To put yourself in someone else’s position?
P.S. Dear people who have said, or believe, that protesters deserve to be run over if they delay your travel: Stop being awful human beings. You suggest vehicular manslaughter is a fair response to being inconvenienced. You are no doubt bloviating, but really think about what you are saying. I know I’m not going to change your opinion, but we will no longer meet your bullying with silence.
Photo credit: Patience Zalanga (Instagram: pzalanga)
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