Trial of Reverend arrested for 'Praying While Black' during Ferguson protests to begin
February 5th, 2016: Nearly 500 days after his arrest as he knelt between advancing police and a group of peaceful protestors in Ferguson in late 2014, the Reverend Osagyefo Sekou will stand trial on Monday.
WHAT: Rev. Osagyefo Sekou to face charge of “Refusal to Disperse” relating to the ‘Praying While Black’ arrest from September 29th, 2014
WHEN: 9am expected start, Monday 8th February
WHERE: Div. 43, 3rd Floor, St. Louis County Justice Center, 100 South Central, Clayton, Missouri
The first of several charges the Reverend faces in the the wake of the police killing of Michael Brown, Jr. in August 2014, the Rev. Sekou - represented by St. Louis civil rights attorney Jerryl Christmas - will plead ‘Not Guilty’. He faces a possible fine not to exceed $1,000 and jail time not to exceed 3 months.
Dating from the 29th of September, 2014, following an interfaith prayer in front of the Ferguson Police Station, in which protestors, community and clergy from diverse faiths joined in reflection and a rendition of seminal civil rights anthem, “Oh Freedom”, the Rev. Sekou knelt praying in front of an advancing line of heavily equipped police as they began to surge toward the crowd.
Swiftly arrested and detained in a bloodstained police van, the author, activist, musician and theologian (who currently serves as the Bayard Rustin Fellow with the Fellowship of Reconciliation) was charged with refusal to disperse and released only after activists stayed in the street in solidarity, demanding his return.
“In the aftermath of Michael Brown Jr’s killing and the draconian crackdown on human and civil rights that followed, more than a thousand people were arbitrarily arrested, charged, detained and brutalized on fanciful and fabricated grounds such as breaching the so-called ‘five-second rule’, while heavily armed forces occupied the streets of Ferguson with tanks and tear gas. While the city has quietly dropped hundreds of charges since then, they are proceeding with many hundreds others.
“Civil suits have already been taken and won, many more will no doubt follow. Meanwhile, the same functionaries that have fought tooth and nail against implementing the Department of Justice’s modest changes, splurging tax-payer money on an $1000+ an hour corporate trial lawyer to reject the terms of the Federal consent decree apparently have ample resources to take this and many other charges to court,” the Rev. Sekou said.
“I face more serious charges than Officers Darren Wilson, Daniel Pantaleo or Richard Haste ever have. I have spent more time in jail than Officers Timothy Loehmann, Sean Williams or Richard Neri. I may be jailed for this, or for trumped up charges from clergy and community mass civil disobediences during Moral Monday protests held in Ferguson and St Louis. Yet this is just a fraction of the price many black people pay for the act of living in the United States under a system of law enforcement and ‘justice’ designed to systematically repress.
“The best of religion calls upon us to stand with the oppressed, to bear their pain and suffering as our own. Praying for justice in the streets of Ferguson remains a privilege,” the Rev. Sekou said.