JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – The start of Missouri’s legislative session was interrupted Wednesday by demonstrators who chanted and unfurled banners in the Senate while protesting the fatal Ferguson police shooting of Michael Brown.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who was presiding over the chamber, said demonstrators were violating Senate rules of decorum and ordered proceedings suspended while police cleared people from the visitors’ galleries. The Senate resumed after about 30 minutes, but no one was allowed to return to the visitors’ section.
Protest leaders and a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Public Safety said no one was arrested.
Demonstrators vowed to return to the Capitol throughout this year’s session as lawmakers consider numerous bills stemming from the Aug. 9 shooting of the Black, unarmed 18-year-old by officer Darren Wilson, who is white, in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. A grand jury decided not to charge Wilson, who later resigned.
“Our hope is they take what we did seriously,” said one of the protest leaders, Kayla Reed, of the Organization for Black Struggle. “What people need to understand is that 152 days into this, we’re not stopping – we’re really just getting starting.”
Demonstrators distributed a 28-point plan for changes to police practices, including “anti-racism training,” greater citizen oversight of police agencies and an end to the police acquisition of military-grade equipment.
As the Senate convened, chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “No justice, no peace” echoed from the hallways into the chamber. Both chants have been common rallying cries at protests in Ferguson and across the nation by people who believe minorities are too often the targets of overzealous police.
Dozens of protesters intermingled among relatives and friends of newly elected Missouri senators who were seated in the visitors’ galleries to watch lawmakers take the oath of office. They unfurled several banners. One said, “Swear to protect the people.”
Kinder, a Republican, banged the gavel and declared that protesters had “rudely inserted yourself into the solemn proceeding.” But protesters continued with chants – “It is our duty to fight for our freedom” and “Black lives matter” – as they were escorted from the chamber.
Follow David A. Lieb at: https:/twitter.com/DavidALieb