ST. LOUIS -- Ferguson protesters gathered in a church basement to celebrate Thanksgiving with one another on the eve of Black Friday, before beginning active boycotts of Walmart and Target stores.
A little over 100 protesters, churchgoers and volunteers celebrated Thanksgiving at St. Luke's African Methodist Episcopal Church on Thursday night. The basement room was filled with joy as people chatted, ate and sang songs, including spiritual hymns and protest chants.
"Victory is mine. Victory is mine. Victory today is mine," people sang triumphantly, just days after mourning upon hearing the grand jury's decision to not indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting unarmed teenager Michael Brown in August. The protests sparked by Brown's death flared up again after Monday night's announcement by the St. Louis prosecutor.
Thursday's dinner was prepared by "Mama Cat," a woman who's become a mother figure to protesters.
"Just ate this amazing home-cooked meal by Mama Cat and now we're listening to this New York City choir sing. It's amazing right now," said Amy Dalton, 38, a "community minister" from New York who arrived in the area Saturday and was at the dinner.
Dalton continued to praise the singers, known as Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Choir. "They're bringing energy to this room, using the power of their living memories to give us strength to keep going forward. I just feel very blessed to be witness to this and to living and participating in this and hopefully helping a little bit," she said.
Protesters started chanting, "No justice, no peace" in the first Walmart they visited Thursday night.
After dinner, the group decided to head to Walmart for a demonstration, without a game plan or mention of the protest on social media. Once inside, the protesters grabbed carts and pretended to be shopping. One protester started chanting, "No justice, no peace," and others joined in. Many shoppers looked confused by the demonstration and pulled out their phones to record the event. The protesters were then aggressively escorted by police officers and barking German shepherds out of the Walmart and off the property.
"Shut it down, shut it tight. The bosses can't profit when you fight," the protesters chanted.
Protesters chant outside the second Walmart they visited Thursday night.
The protesters traveled across town to a Target and then to another Walmart. When they reached their fourth stop -- yet another Walmart -- they were met by a line of police officers and locked doors.
Their night of demonstrations ended. However, they had several more actions planned for Black Friday, as part of a larger #BlackoutBlackFriday movement that called for boycotts of stores on one of the largest shopping days of the year.
-- Mariah Randi Stewart (@MzzzMariah) November 28, 2014