Hundreds of demonstrators packed a Northwest Washington park Thursday evening to join the nationwide protests of police actions in Ferguson, Mo., in the aftermath of the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer.
The crowd shouted slogans such as “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and “Black Lives Matter!” and they chanted demands for justice and an end to deaths at the hands of police. At times, demonstrators shouted down event organizers with words of anger and demands for more than talk in a park.
“Can we just march?” Rockville filmmaker Jasmine Bryant yelled at event leaders as she urged protesters to move from the vigil at Meridian Hill Park, also known as Malcolm X Park, into the city streets and toward the White House.
With a bullhorn to his mouth, organizer Jonathan Lykes responded, “Tonight, can I just mourn for the people we’ve lost?”
On Aug. 9, Michael Brown was walking on a street in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson when, according to a friend of his, a police officer ordered the 18-year-old to move to the sidewalk. The friend said Brown was shot repeatedly after raising his hands to show that he was unarmed. Police have said that Brown attacked the officer and reached for his gun.
The shooting has sparked days of clashes between protesters and police, as well as a federal inquiry into the incident.
When Lykes tried to get the crowd to engage in small-group discussion about feelings of hurt and potential action plans, Justice Woods, 26, shouted down the idea.
Woods, of the Brookland neighborhood, told the crowd of the anger that he felt about his friend and fellow Howard University graduate Mya White, who was shot as she protested Brown’s death in Ferguson.
In an interview, Woods said he hoped that the crowd would channel its emotions toward action, as White did. “When you walk away from here, what are you going to do?” Woods asked. “Get angry. And use it.”
As the event ended, hundreds lingered in the park to exchange ideas for action.
Jasmine Savoy, 22, and teachers Kyle Walcott, 23, and Rennard Westley, 26, wondered whether they should they organize an economic boycott, join a civil rights organization or organize a protest themselves.
No matter which direction he takes, Westley said, he needed time with like-minded people, so he stayed rather than return to his couch.
“I think it’s important to stick around and try to collect your thoughts and try to process it all,” he said.