Ferguson unrest strikes home for St. Louis transplant

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Dr. Samantha Elliot Briggs now teaches in Birmingham, but she grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and still has family in Ferguson. Watching her hometown tear itself apart is hard to handle emotionally.

“You know I had to take myself away from the news like literally tear myself away from the news because it’s too much… You know it took me 4 days to call my family to make sure that they were safe,” said Briggs.

Briggs remembers being enrolled in public schools in St. Louis by her father who was working to desegregate them at the time.

“There were horror stories about what would happen if you got pulled over in that town,” said Briggs.

“We decided to go to Alabama to go to graduate school, people thought, my husband’s from Jersey, they thought we were absolutely ridiculous and I tell them all the time, Alabama’s not as bad as you think and it’s definitely not as bad as where I come from,” said Briggs. “We still have problems here in Birmingham, but we deal with our problems, we’re owning up to some of them, you know we’ve taken the band-aid off. We’re trying to do some things to heal. It’s not perfect, it’s flawed, but we work. St. Louis I cannot think of where the work is happening. You see it from time to time, most of it is the result of some sort of judicial action. It is forced work.”

Myeisha Hutchinson says coverage of the events in Ferguson, Missouri, inspired her and other young professionals to form Birmingham Unity, last Friday.

They were moved by the footage of violence in Ferguson which she says reminded her of what happened in Birmingham during the 1960’s.

“I thought well this is 2014 and I thought we were beyond that, but I know we’re not and there are lots of racial issues that we still deal with on a national level and until we’re ready to have those hard conversations they’re going to continue,” said Hutchinson.

Hutchinson’s group held a demonstration at Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Monday evening.

“Our goal is to create true tolerance and eliminate police brutality,” said Hutchinson.

According to St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar Sunday, police in St. Louis offered new details about the incident that led to the shooting death of 18 year old Michael Brown.

Brown is the man whose death sparked the protests in Missouri.

“A Ferguson police officer had an encounter with two of individuals on the street in fact one of those individuals at the time came into the, as the officer was exiting his police car allegedly pushed the police officer back into the car where he physically assaulted the police officer,” said Belmar.  “It is our understanding at this point in the investigation that within the police car there was a struggle over the officer’s weapon. There was at least one shot fired within the car after that the officer went back, came back out of the car, he exited his vehicle and there was a shooting that occurred where the officer in fact shot the subject and the subject, they were fatal injuries the entire scene from approximately the car door to the shooting is about 35 feet.”

Copyright 2014 WIAT 42 News

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