By Chris Zuver, A&E Editor
On September 18, a group of students gathered in University of Missouri-St. Louis’ Millennium Student Center in the afternoon to protest the not-guilty verdict of former St. Louis officer Jason Stockley. The event was organized by UMSL students Charles Buchanan, junior, undeclared, with help from Marielle Esquivel, junior, political science.
“He texted me that morning at 9:30. We were at the protests together over the weekend,” said Esquivel, who spent the morning texting others on and off campus, notifying them of the event. Within half an hour, they had managed to get roughly 20 people who agreed to join the cause.
“This is the first time I’ve led an action of any sort,” said Esquivel. “I just felt it was upon myself to bring that to school.”
“It would’ve been larger,” said Esquivel, “but a lot of people were already downtown and couldn’t make it. A lot of the crowds were dispersed because a lot of other schools were also doing demonstrations.”
Jessie Kehle, graduate, English, was another student who took part. “I didn’t really know the protest was happening until Charles ran up to the PRIZM office and asked who wanted to protest. We randomly grabbed a bunch of poster boards and markers and went to where nobody could see us in the bushes. We had heard that campus police were tipped off that there was gonna be a protest.”
Kehle continued, “I didn’t know who else was involved. I was just swept off in the fervor. I was outraged enough, certainly. I had already been to three other protests, why not have one on campus? You’d hope college students would be more sympathetic to this.”
The protest was originally scheduled to start at 2 p.m., but due to police activity was pushed forward to 12:30 p.m., when organizers were getting out of class.
“One thing that surprised me was that the students on campus that weren’t involved didn’t seem to really care all that much, other than as a curiosity that interrupted their lunch,” said Kehle. “We were trying to scream at them, ‘Don’t you care!? Aren’t you going to join us?’”
“It was appalling to see how a lot of silence was given to us while we were demanding for people to stand with us,” said Esquivel. “There was a lot of negligence on students’ parts and I find that to be pretty alarming.” Esquivel also recalled men approaching her, telling her that she was offending them.
Besides indifference, protestors faced opposition as well.
“There was an altercation where a student had come at one of our protestors and was shoving and yelling at us,” said Esquivel. “There was another person who wrote a seemingly offensive letter and threw it at us. When one of the protesters went after him, he ran away. The police thought that Charles [Buchanan] was trying to assault him. They tried to arrest Charles, but Charles explained that the person had come at him.”
Once the protesters had gathered in the Nosh, they marched through the quad and into the Thomas Jefferson Library.
“I was surprised that they let us do that,” said Kehle about protesting in the library.
From there, protestors marched out past the circle to the Dean’s office, but the doors were locked. Instead, they protested on the sidewalk along Natural Bridge Road.
“Somebody was just like, ‘OK, let’s just block the intersection,’ so we decided to,” said Kehle. “We ran out into the street.” Shortly after, a total of five police vehicles arrived on the scene.
“There were less than twenty people at this point. I was surprised we were able to hold the intersection as long as we did,” said Kehle. After a while, the protestors left the street.
“When we were marching back through the quad, people were looking around, curious,” said Kehle. “Tons of people in the quad. We swept up some of them to join us.”
“Then, when we were trying to get back into the MSC, there was a campus policeman that wouldn’t let us in. They said we were causing too much of a disturbance. Then, someone from the Socialist Alternative club came up behind the policeman and ripped the door open. We forced our way in.”
In the end, the group was small, but there were those that showed their respect to the cause.
“This showed me that even a small group of people are determined enough to cause a fuss and do something, you can accomplish as much as you want,” said Kehle. “Some people in the Black Lives Matter movement were posting on Facebook that this was a small but mighty protest. That was flattering.
Kehle continued, “And some people were posting things like, ‘Y’all are just causing a scene.’ Well yeah, we’re causing a scene. Because if we don’t, you’re not going to pay attention. I was pretty proud of what a few scattered people were able to do.”
“I come from privilege and I have to acknowledge that and step aside, in terms of what I’m standing for,” said Esquivel. “I’m not here to stand for myself. I’m here for marginalized black trans folks that are victims of police brutality and racial hate crimes. This is just me trying to play my part in this movement.”
Esquivel continued, “It’s awful. I’ve seen so many of my friends standing there, getting body slammed with bikes, maced, and completely brutalized… I’ve had family members telling me, ‘Marielle, I want you to be careful,’ and I was like, ‘It’s not my life that’s on the line here.’”
Esquivel added, “I think that because we’re hearing about it nationwide shows that all of our efforts are completely worth it and I don’t think that it’s going to stop any time soon.”