A first hand account of incident at Page and Walton, Wednesday, August 19, 2015.
by Katherine HawkerSelf
Last night I was home. I slept for 12 hours, a privilege. And when I awoke I read from Dotson's presser as quoted by the St. Louis American and I feel defeated. What I witnessed Wednesday night, on the ground, was in direct conflict with the police narrative, which has become the official story. My heart hurts even more as the lies are exposed in the light of day; but how to expose them to a nation that believes?
Earlier in the day on Wednesday, the police killed a recently graduated young Black man who had a job and no record, #MansurBalBey. They shot him in the back. The police say he had a gun, every other eyewitness says no. Regardless, the police had guns and they shot him in the back.
The neighbors moved out of their houses on onto their street in grief. They were joined by protesters from the area myself included. There were hundreds of us, mostly non-white. In fact, and I think this is significant, the crowd on Wednesday night had very few white faces. And the police have already been clear that young Black bodies are in and of themselves threatening, so I can only assume the very presence of the crowd was the threat.
I saw no fire.
I heard or saw no report of violence of ANY kind before the wall of police (literally a wall) descended with weapons bared and tanks in view behind them. It was a military siege. Any other words entirely miss the moment.
I heard no order to disperse, no order that we were an unlawful assembly, no direction from the police. The police in St. Louis are under court order to communicate BEFORE chemical weapons attack, there was NONE. We were listening, waiting for the order.
In the face of that onslaught were rocks thrown? I do not know. What I do know is that we were, quite literally, attacked by our own government. What choices do we have?
I chose to run for cover, but it was hard to find when the police intentionally turned down side streets looking for and shooting rubber bullets and chemical weapons at civilians – w =omen, preschoolers, elders, and (yep) white people. I know the exact moment that I knew that I might die that night, that my own government might kill me for the crime of standing alongside my Black friends. We were hiding in the car, windows raised and hands likewise, when a canister was thrown directly at us, rolling under the vehicle.
When a friend in our hiding place (a car) was in physical distress and it appeared that the tanks had gone, she was carried onto the lawn and was being tended to by a medic. Still struggling for breath, we saw the tank re-emerge. It took aim at our enclave tending a wounded civilian and threw a gas canister directly at us. The one in distress was quickly scooped back up and several of us dove back into the car while the others ran in an opposite direction.
Somewhere in this nightmare it is reported that citizens threw rocks. Maybe so. Quite frankly, I am beyond judgment about such property damage. While I abhor the white anarchists that set fire to a house, I am MUCH more concerned about the blatant disregard for human life demonstrated by those employed by the state. My friend who lives in the neighborhood says that it is genocide. As I witness in horror, I can make no other conclusion. The media's rush to place blame for the assault on a rock throwers is ludicrous. The extremity of the cover-up only exacerbates the crime.
As the police receded (was it an hour later?), I watched an old man struggle across the street with a now empty bottle. Shaking his head, he said, "I ain't never seen nothing like it. They shootin' at kids! I watched 'em. They shot one. Boom! Then aimed and shot at another. Boom! And then another. Children!"
Shaking his head in profound sadness, he walked away. There isn't enough beer in the world to dull the pain in his soul. Nor mine.
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