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Messenger: The new civil rights movement has an anthem: "We comin"

Messenger: The new civil rights movement has an anthem: "We comin"

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Rev. Sekou on trial for "Refusal to Disperse" while praying during protest

The Rev. Osagyefo Sekou (left), with attorney Jerryl Christmas, awaits trial at the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton on Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. He was charged with refusal to disperse after allegedly blocking traffic during a 2014 protest in Ferguson. Photo by Cristina M. Fletes, cfletes@post-dispatch.com

We comin’.

That was the message U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch sent to the city of Ferguson when she sued over the city’s failure to accept the consent decree that would forever change how the city’s police department and courts treat its citizens.

“The residents of Ferguson have suffered the deprivation of their constitutional rights — the rights guaranteed to all Americans — for decades,” Lynch said in filing the lawsuit. “They have waited decades for justice. They should not be forced to wait any longer.”

Lynch pounced less than 24 hours after the City Council sent the consent decree back to the Department of Justice. The proposed changes would have rendered moot much of the document — a document to which the city’s own negotiators had once agreed.

It was the city defending its boundaries, its existence, over the rights of its citizens. It was a symptom of a government apparatus wanting the new civil rights movement to go away.

That’s not going to happen.

We ready.

That was what the Rev. Osagyefo Sekou told the world last week after a St. Louis County jury found him not guilty of disobeying a police order during the 2014 Ferguson protests.

In effect, Sekou was being charged with praying in a public street. That’s what he did on Sept. 30, 2014, when participating in one of a long series of protests outside the Ferguson Police Department after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014.

He was praying for the police to de-escalate. Instead, they arrested him, and pressed the case as though to win some notch on a law-and-order belt.

“They attempted to try the movement and defame the movement,” Sekou said. “But their ploy didn’t work.”

Might be early in the morning, but we comin’ for you.

Just a couple of weeks before heading to court, Sekou and FarFetched released the single “We comin” as a protest anthem to remind skeptics in the U.S. that this new civil rights movement is just in its infancy.

Eighteen months after Ferguson erupted, the movement is spreading its wings.

It’s embedding itself in the musical culture, from Sekou’s album, “The Revolution Has Come,” to megastar Beyoncé’s new single “Formation,” with its clear nod to the Black Lives Matter movement.

It’s rearing its head in politics, from the Campaign Zero movement to reduce the number of blacks killed by police by changing police culture and training, to the announcement that one of the movement’s early leaders, DeRay Mckesson is running for mayor of Baltimore. “The movement lives,” Mckesson famously tweeted over and over during the height of the protests. Indeed, it does.

Might be late in the midnight hour, but we comin’, we comin’ for you.

It lives in the hearts of six college students from St. Louis who are part of the Active Advocacy Coalition, taking themes from the Ferguson Commission report to the state Capitol to urge lawmakers to do more to help poor students afford an opportunity to go to a public university in Missouri.

We’re ready, we comin’.

The co-chairman of that Ferguson Commission, the Rev. Starsky Wilson, sent a strong message about the state of the movement during a stirring speech to end the commission’s last meeting in December.

“Frankie Freeman is still waiting on us to get it done. James Buford is still waiting on us to get it done. Bill Danforth is still waiting on us to get it done. Tonight we eat burgers,” he said.

The burger reference was to a night during the protest when Wilson and others had bailed some protesters out of jail and taken them to a nice steak restaurant.

One of the protesters said that now was not the time for steak. Steak was for when they got what they wanted. When justice comes.

“So tonight we’re pleased to be a part of this process. But this is just ground beef. We get to the real work,” Wilson continued. “We get to the real victories when we can continue to count that these policy recommendations have been implemented.”

If we don’t get no justice, you don’t get no peace of mind.

It’s 18 months after the streets of St. Louis were alive with protest, and the movement is truly just beginning.

Ferguson has yet to accept the changes required to protect the civil rights of its citizens. The Missouri Supreme Court has yet to take control of its municipal courts that nickel and dime poor people to death.

The Legislature has passed one law that should reduce the incentive for tiny police forces to treat citizens like ATMs for cash-strapped cities, but it has done little else to address poverty or the racial divide.

Now is not the time to bury our heads in the sand and wish disruption out of our lives. It’s the time to take serious steps toward justice and freedom for people who have been oppressed by a broken system for too long.

“I believe that we will win,” Sekou sings.

Justice demands it.

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