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VIDEO: Student protestors disrupt campus speech by prosecutor in Mike Brown case

Stage mock trial against Robert McCulloch, sing ‘justice for Mike Brown,’ and demand to be released from attorney’s ‘oppression’

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – About a dozen student protestors interrupted a Friday morning speech by St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch at Saint Louis University, staging a mock trial against McCulloch and singing “justice for Mike Brown” as the attorney gave his remarks.

The protestors – a mix of black and white students – boisterously interrupted the Ferguson prosecutor on three separate occasions, and were eventually removed by campus security at the behest of university President Fred Pestello.

McCulloch was the keynote speaker of a day-long symposium, “The Thin Blue Line: Policing Post-Ferguson,” hosted at the university’s downtown law school. The event was described as a chance to “identify legal challenges that face law enforcement on the streets today.”

McCulloch was the opening speaker for the event, housed in the school’s court room, and the fireworks started within minutes of him taking the podium.

As McCulloch gave his speech, a “mock judge” protestor wearing a black robe called out charges against the prosecutor. Pestello and others in the RobertMcColluchaudience asked for the protestors to quiet down. An event organizer even slammed the gavel, calling for order. Eventually the protestors quieted down.

But a few minutes after this initial protest, another group of students held up pictures of black males killed in police officer-involved shootings and began reading off their names, saying they wouldn’t stop until “obstruction of justice” charges were filed against McCulloch.

“You are killing and stifling us with your oppression and your thwarting of the law,” a protester shouted to McCulloch.

McCulloch once again continued to speak over the protestors, who then began a sing-song protest chant: “Which side are you on please, which side are you on? Justice for Mike Brown, please, justice for us all.”

Pestello pleaded with the protestors for civility.

“I ask for respect for our guests and those who came to hear them,” Pestello said. “There will be time to ask questions when his remarks are finished.”

But Pestello’s appeals were ignored. The last interruption included protestors singing a song that included lyrics about “racist cops.”

Pestello then asked campus security to remove the protestors, which brought applause from the crowd. Campus security immediately escorted out the protestors, who started a “Black Lives Matter” chant on their way out. They left without a struggle.

The protestors never identified themselves, however McCulloch’s address had drawn criticism earlier this month when the event was announced. Tribe X, an activist group that co-staged a six-day “Occupy SLU” October sit-in on campus, demanded McCulloch be disinvited, and members of the university’s Black Law Students’ Association had confronted Pestello about the event at a recent town hall meeting.

“I am always amazed that those who support the rights to free speech don’t allow others to talk,” McCulloch said when order was restored Friday morning. “I’m pretty certain all lives matter.”

McCulloch’s address was one of his first public appearances since his November announcement that no charges would be brought upon Darren Wilson, the officer involved in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. In his hour-long remarks, McCulloch highlighted the confusion around the grand jury process, explained his role as a prosecutor, and gave his thoughts on police changes that are being proposed.

“What I have learned from Ferguson is that I need to get out and tell people about the process, specifically the grand jury,” he said.

McCulloch emphasized his duty in the grand jury proceeding was often misrepresented, and stressed his oath to be a “minister of justice.”

“It is not the job of the prosecutor to get an indictment,” he said. McCulloch remarked that proposals of social change should focus on wider societal problems, and that “the solutions aren’t just in the criminal justice system.”

McCulloch’s address was followed by a question and answer session. Most questions came from SLU law professors and other scholars in attendance. While asking questions critical of McCulloch, nearly all thanked him for speaking, with one commending his “bravery” and another offering “regrets” for the protest interruptions.

Many questions touched on the prosecutors’ examination of Darren Wilson’s testimony, and the timing of the announcement of the grand jury’s decision.

“I am not at all disappointed on the way that Darren Wilson was questioned,” he said, adding he and other officials had initially hoped to announce the decision on a Sunday morning, but that plan didn’t work out for a few logistical reasons.

College Fix reporter Nathan Rubbelke is a student at Saint Louis University.

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About the Author
Nathan Rubbelke -- Saint Louis University