Friday, December 5, 2014

Protesters hoping to stop traffic on highways around St. Louis

(KTVI)- "Some demonstrators who marched in Ferguson on saturday are calling for another protest today..  Stopping traffic on area interstates at 4:30 p.m. Monday.
The three weeks of demonstrations have certainly stopped the traffic in Ferguson, with roads like West Florissant closing on an almost daily basis. Now some protesters are hoping to stop traffic on the highways around St. Louis.It is a proposed act of civil disobedience that was pitched Sunday to the one thousand people who attended the national march on Ferguson in response to the killing of Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson.The idea is for drivers to stop their cars on streets and highways all over town for four and a half minutes. Their halt is symbolizing the four and a half hours Brown's body was lying in the street. Even some who support the demonstrations worry about unintended consequences."I don`t think that would be very safe to do, just stop traffic.  I`m not saying it`s not worth the cause, but just to up and stop traffic like that, no.  I would not approve of that," said Brian Bradley.
Zaki Baruti says, "if some of our demands are not dealt with, you`ll see more civil disobedience in the spirit of Dr. King, because we`re not just going to sit by and just let injustice be constantly affecting us."
St. Louis county police say such a move could create -quote- a deadly situation. Those leading the demonstrators say you'll see more such civil disobedience.Monday morning, civil rights activist and lawyer, Eric Vickers, has sent a letter to President Obama advising him of a plan to shut down I-70 on September 10th.He says they feel "morally obligated" to carry out this peaceful civil disobedience because Governor Jay Nixon has rejected calls to appoint a special prosecutor in the Michael Brown case."
Letter in full:
Honorable Barack H. Obama
United States of America
Washington, D.C.

Dear President Obama:

Per the attached letter to  Missouri Governor Jeremiah "Jay" Nixon dated August 28, 2014, this is to provide notice that We will commence a direct action campaign against the State of Missouri, beginning with a peaceful civil disobedience shut-down of Interstate 70 on September 10, 2014.

We feel morally obligated to take this action because Missouri's Governor has rejected all pleas by African-American and other leaders, locally and nationally, for the appointment of a special prosecutor in the Michael Brown matter.

If there is to be justice in Missouri, it must begin with the appointment of a special prosecutor.

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Eric E. Vickers 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Not another …, by Eric E. Vickers, courtesy of St. Louis American

Eric E. Vickers
"As information continues to come out about the shooting of another black youth – 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr. – by a white St. Louis police officer, the police and establishment continue their claim that the murder was justified because the officer was allegedly fired upon by Myers, while the African-American community continues its skepticism and rejection of the police version of events.  

What brought us to this situation is the intersection of the mindset of Myers and the police at approximately 7:30 p.m. October 8. I imagine that at the time Myers was acutely aware of the shooting of Michael Brown.
With all the media attention the past two months about that shooting, Myers surely had imbedded in his subconscious the vivid imagery that has emerged of Michael Brown's death: unarmed, not committing any crime other than walking in the middle of the street, being almost a half a block away from a cop after being shot and shot at, and then turning around to face the cop with hands up, only to be shot six times, including twice in the head. I imagine that frightening image would put some apprehension and doubt in a teen's mind about whether he ca trust that a white cop will deal with him fairly. 
I also imagine that young Myers saw – as the whole world did – the video of Kajieme Powell being gunned down from a distance by two white St. Louis police officers, while not committing any crime other than demonstrating that he was obviously mentally ill, and while not having a firearm or any object that visibly posed an immediate threat to the officers. 
I would imagine that a teen seeing this video run repeatedly on social media might develop a mindset that has a fear and loathing of white police, because the youthful mind sees gun toting cops taking black life with little hesitation and with impunity. 
Myers probably, like most of us, also saw the nationally televised video of the black man repeatedly shot by a white cop simply because he was reaching into his vehicle to get the identification papers the officer asked him to produce. 
And Myers may have had a chance to see before he was gunned down the recent national news story and video of white cops smashing out the window of a vehicle in order to drag an unarmed black man from the car. I imagine a youth seeing all this could have his psyche impacted in a manner that would cause him to feel that if he was confronted by a white cop, then his life might be in jeopardy.
Probably all of this was a part of Myers’ thinking around 7:30 p.m., when a white off-duty cop in uniform rolled up on him and his black friends. Perhaps Myers thought that it didn't or wouldn't matter to the cop that they were not engaged in any criminal activity or doing anything wrong, just hanging out like youth is prone to do.  Perhaps Myers thought that because he was not doing anything wrong, was not wanted for any crime, and was not being placed under arrest, that he had the right and freedom to either walk away – or run away – from the scene.
Perhaps he wondered why he was being chased by a white cop when he had done nothing wrong and had not been ordered by the cop to do anything. Perhaps as he was running, Myers thought about how Trayvon Martin was chased down by a security guard like the off-duty cop now chasing him.  
Although we will never know, perhaps what was running through Myers' mind as he was being chased that night was that he did not want to be another Trayvon Martin, or Michael Brown, or Kajieme Powell.   
Vickers is chief of staff for state Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) and a veteran protest organizer." Courtesy of St. Louis American.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Cardinals playoff game could be target for Mike Brown shooting protesters, courtesy of KPLR 11, St. Louis

"ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)- The thousands of people heading to Busch Stadium for tonight`s game could be met with demonstrators protesting the Michael Brown case. (click the link to watch the video).

The potential for protests over the Michael Brown shooting is certainly an issue that concerns many from the St. Louis City Police Department to Major League Baseball officials.

A letter written by local attorney and activist Eric Vickers was sent to Major League Commissioner, Bud Selig in September. In the letter, Vickers says there is the potential for protest at post-season Cardinals games.

In the letter Vickers says that all is not joy in Cardinals Nation because of the Michael Brown case. He makes it clear that the MLB playoff games in St. Louis have been identified as protest targets.

Letter to Commissioner Selig: 
Mr. Bud Selig
Major League Baseball
Dear Commissioner Selig:
Let me first congratulate you and Major League Baseball (“MLB”) for providing another stellar year of sports entertainment, and also to commend you for your many years of invaluable service to the game as you now plan to move on.  I wish I could communicate to you an upbeat message of fun and joy as many parts of the St. Louis community now rightfully feel with our beloved Red Birds headed back into the playoffs and undoubtedly the Series.  However, all is not joy in Cardinal Nation, as you most certainly must be aware, because of the shooting of Michael Brown, and the deep seeded feeling of enough is enough in the black community it has unearthed.
Thus, if you have not been informed, there have been since Michael Brown’s death ongoing protest activities taking place in and around the St. Louis metropolitan area.
Consequently, given this backdrop, you should be aware and understand why the MLB playoff games scheduled to begin in St. Louis next week have necessarily been identified as protest targets.  I think you should also be aware that the protest activities have ranged from mass assemblages of persons protesting, to civil disobedience arrests, to blocking public means of transportation.   And you should be aware that the aim of these protests is to cause discomfort and inconvenience and disruption in order that the voices of those protesting will be heard.  Voices I can attest are as determined to be paid as much attention to as is paid to sports.
Unavoidably, MLB has a role to play in this situation.  To the chagrin of many – and frankly, at the peril of this town -the business and the civic community in St. Louis have been silent on the issue the black community has deemed of vital and non-negotiable importance: the appointment of a special prosecutor for the Michael Brown case.  The two black State Senators from the area, Sen. Maria Chapelle-Nadal and Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, have made this demand, with Senator Nasheed having collected over 150,000 on line signatures calling for a special prosecutor.  The black ministers have made this demand.  The black community leaders have made this demand.  And if you have watched the news, the whole world is making this demand.  Yet, Commissioner, though the black community has thrown nothing but strikes at this issue, the prosecutor remains like stone in the batter’s box.  Breaking all the game’s rules of basic prosecutorial fairness.  And with those sponsoring the game, the business community, closing their eyes to the damage being done to the sport – to harmonious race relations here and nationally.
We ask that you use the powers of your office to address this by providing needed national leadership to the local business and civic leaders.  We are hopeful your stature and influence and experience will help avert the embarrassment already suffered by our town from worsening.
Thank you.
Eric E. Vickers
Vickers was among the organizers of the protest last month where several people were arrested for blocking Hanley at I-70 in North County.

The plan there was originally for protesters to block I-70 but that was mostly stopped by police.

Vickers says past protest activities have ranged from large groups assembling to protest, to civil disobedience arrests that included blocking public means of transportation.He is demanding that a special prosecutor be appointed in the Michael Brown case.

This potential threat comes after roughly 50 demonstrators delayed part of a St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performance on Saturday night at Powell Symphony Hall.

Moments before the symphony and chorus was to begin performing, the group stood up and started singing a song related to the Brown case. Banners were also displayed from the balcony.
That protest lasted a few minutes and the demonstrators left peacefully."

Thursday, October 2, 2014

This divine time, courtesy of St. Louis American.

Eric E. Vickers
"A generation from now, when America crosses the demographic divide of its minority citizens becoming its majority population, and Ferguson is looked back upon as a pivotal point in race relations, undoubtedly, the coverage of that time by The St. Louis American newspaper will be researched by historians to find the elements then at work in the black community, which helped shape the new America.

Although they may find it curious, the historians will learn that for African Americans, Ferguson marked a divine time, for they will see in The American this penetrating color photo of an older black woman protester in mystical prayer, and also see front page reporting of a prophetic vision about Ferguson from a young black woman hundreds of miles away. 

Looking further into the archives of The American to get a picture of the dynamics that shaped the millennium, historians will see a protest persistence having developed after the spark of the shooting, with an explosion of outrage possible at any point upon almost any provocation. They will see that even the positioning of an African American then by the white powers to command down the black protesters proved fruitless, as they took aim at him.

Instead of seeing an AfricanAmerican commander quelling the dissent, historians will see that continuing and escalating acts of protest were occurring, as they will read about an interstate shutdown effort met by a militarized police force, and learn of the Weekend of Resistance.

At this same period of time, though, historians will observe from reading The American the black community becoming introspective in seeking change and solutions. The historians will see blacks in America then faced with the duality of dealing with violence from police officers and violence within the black community.

The role of the black church during the Ferguson period will certainly be examined by historians to see any similarities with the vanguard role played by the black church during the Civil Rights Movement, and they will note from reading The American that a nationally prominent minister delivered Michael Brown’s eulogy and called for justice.

As they saw during the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties, historians will, through the eyes of The American, see during the Ferguson period whites involved in and identifying with the cause of blacks. They will see through the columns and letters white lawyers having stepped forward to demand changes in the criminal justice system

Yet, despite the good intentions of some whites and corporate benevolence, the historians will have to record that, during the Ferguson period, the racial divide on the issue of criminal justice was vast and deep. They will learn from their research that because of the dealings of white politicians, for black elected officials, Ferguson marked the beginning of a new political era and ideology.

Eric E. Vickers is an attorney, organizer and chief of staff for state Senator Jamilah Nasheed."  Courtesy of St. Louis American.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Guilty of public assembly, by Eric E. Vickers, courtesy of St. Louis American

Eric E. Vickers
On Wednesday, September 10, between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., a legion of St. Louis County police officers – almost exclusively white – dressed in riot gear, lined the intersection of Interstate 70 and Hanley Road with their uniformed bodies and an array of vehicles, including an armored military transport. This massive display of taxpayer resources was deployed for the purpose of preventing the planned shutdown of Interstate 70, with hundreds of protesters, mostly black adults, gathered at the location, chanting and poised to peaceably march. 

The police blocked off Hanley Road completely, and then cordoned off the entrances to the interstate, thus physically blocking protesters from entering and accessing the public areas and public right-of-way along the interstate. 
Being caged in this manner, protesters began spontaneous acts of civil disobedience, lying out on Hanley Road, as officers quickly bound them in wristband handcuffs and loaded them into the police buses they had standing by on the scene. The intensity of the crowd turned from being pumped up to participate in a demonstration to outright anger at the police for denying them what they felt and knew was their constitutional right to assemble and walk on public areas. 
They were prepared to be arrested for physically going onto the highway; they were not prepared to be arrested for simply assembling to protest. 
Declaring over their bullhorn that the crowd constituted "an unlawful assembly," the police moved to disperse the protest completely, moving forward in a line with their shields and nightsticks. 
It did not matter to the police that the protesters were lawfully congregating on the private parking lot of the BP gas station on the corner, or on the sidewalks, or on the spacious lawn entrance of a nearby apartment complex, or even on the grassy area that is part of the Metro station at the corner. They were all criminals in the eyes of the police, as they moved with a cold-blooded swiftness to remove every black person from the area. 
As the protesters were forced to disperse, their anger with the police reached a seething level. Two young black men drove their car on the Metro parking lot, turned up the volume in their car stereo to a rap song whose main words are "f--- the police," and the adults joined in.  
The protesters did not succeed in shutting down Interstate 70. They did succeed in achieving the purpose in shutting down the highway: "Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension,” Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.”  Courtesy of St. Louis American.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Staff profile: Activist turns to politics, courtesy of Missouri Times

Eric Vickers, chief of staff for Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis

"JEFFERSON CITY, Mo – Eric Vickers accomplishments as an activist read like a shouting match between unwavering combatants, the events build in scope as time progressed.
He got involved when he was 18, still attending University City High School in St. Louis. He organized a student protest because there were no black teachers employed at the school and black studies was not a part of the curriculum. After the protest prevailed and the school board relented, Vickers knew he had found his calling in life.
It’s the movements that are the catalyst for change,” Vickers said.
He armed himself with an education – Bachelors from Washington University, Masters from Occidental College, and a Law degree form the University of Virginia – and then went to battle against the establishment.
He sued the city of St. Louis in the early 1980s seeking employment opportunities for minorities and women. He was the first lawyer to ever sue a judge in the state of Missouri.
“They had a practice of locking people up because they couldn’t pay fines,” he said.
The protest Vickers is most famous for is a blockade of I-70 back in 1999. Vickers organized the movement but quickly received support from Al Sharpton. Vickers was protesting the lack of minority workers on highway projects. The protest quickly led to the negotiating table at the Governor’s office where the state relented to the protests demands.
That protest was also the first time Vickers had worked with Jamilah Nasheed, who at the time was a small business owner in St. Louis.
About a year later, Vickers organized a similar protest blocking the route of the Metrolink. The St. Louis transit system was scheduled for improvements and again Vickers was distressed at low number of minority workers for the project. Both the I-70 and Metrolink protest speak to one of Vickers main concerns – Economic Development. He feels this is the last phase of the civil rights struggle.
“You look at middle class jobs, they’re construction workers, laborers,” he said.
Related to Economics, but not for middle class jobs, is Vickers favorite protest he organized in the late 1996. He wanted to shut down Wall Street because Bank of America was buying out Mercantile Bank in St. Louis. He chartered a TWA jet, which cost $30,000. He proceeded to round up 150 people, mostly homeless men, to create a large enough crowd to get the attention he desired.
“For almost all of them, it was the first time they had ever been on a plane,” he said.
The demonstration drew the biggest police response Vickers had ever seen. Although it was effective in shutting down some activities on Wall Street, the bank merger went through because the stock exchange was still active.
In the early 2000s, Vickers shifted his focus. He was named the Executive Director of the American Muslim Council and he began working for the rights of fellow Muslims. This started even before Sept. 11, 2001. He said Muslims had supported George W. Bush in 2000, helping him win Florida. The American Muslim Council was set to meet with the president in Washington D.C. on Sept. 11. Well before the meeting, Vickers watched the planes crash into the World Trade Center.
The tone of Vickers involvement with the council changed as Al Qaeda’s involvement in the attack was uncovered. He quickly began defending Muslims accused of associations with terrorist groups. The misplaced national vitriol aimed at Muslims surprised Vickers; he thought it was similar to the reaction during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
“I thought we were past that,” he said.
At about this time, Vickers first appeared on the O’Reilly factor. That first meeting with the conservative television personality was contentious enough that producers cut off Vickers mike midway through the show. He has since been on the show two more times, the debates becoming steadily more cordial.
Vickers could have been content with this life, a lessor known but respected activist. He could have continued his work as an attorney at his firm Vickers, Ward and Wiest. Instead, Vickers ventured into politics, a world of compromise foreign to the immediate pursuits of protest.
“Compromise is not a dirty word,” he said. “The goal of a protest, if it works, is to end at the negotiating table.”
Vickers ran for a U.S. Representative position in 2000. His campaign manager – in what he describes as a two-person campaign – was Jamilah Nasheed.
“It was almost like Mission Impossible,” Vickers said of the campaign. “Bill Clay had been in Congress for 30 years and he decided to run his son. I felt the black community needed a change in leadership.”
The relationship between Vickers and Nasheed grew. In 2005, Nasheed decided to run for a Missouri House seat. Vickers served as her campaign manager.
“We argue all the time,” Vickers said. “I like that though.”
Vickers spent much of his time during that campaign in and out of court. Nasheed was kicked off the ballot due to district concerns. Vickers argued, all the way up to the Missouri Supreme Court, that redistricting would qualify Nasheed. All that time, Nasheed was campaigning, trying to convince voters to lend their support even though she was not on the ballot.
“I developed a whole knew appreciation and pride for her,” Vickers said. “It as disparaging, she fought through all of that.”
Vickers has been Nasheed’s chief of staff through her win in 2012 to become a state Senator.
Although Vickers is now deep into politics, he still has the heart of an activist. Above his desk in Nasheed’s office he has pictures of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. To the right of Malcolm’s picture is a letter from George W. Bush thanking Vickers for meeting with him as a part of the American Muslim Council.
This is the duality of Vickers career. He wants to maintain his activist spirit – working for the underprivileged – while also compromising with those who do not share his strong beliefs. Courtesy of Missouri Times.

Eric E. Vickers, Civil Rights Attorney & Activist. Defender of the Weak and Downtrodden (I'll not hesitate to combine the power of litigation, protest, negotiation, Twitter, and Blogging to go after oppressors of African Americans).