Rural Missourians Protested Black Lives – And Were Encountered By Armed Neighbors | Functionality | Saint-Louis | Saint-Louis News and Events

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Main Street Memories, a small boutique in Fredericktown, is best known as a vintage and antique gift shop. But, in a pinch, it can also serve as a perfectly slim sniper nest.

This is the impression one might get of the scene that took place on the evening of June 24, when a group of protesters aiming to shed light on racism in the small town in the south-eastern part of the Missouri was encountered by a larger group of counter-protesters – many armed to the teeth.

Photos and videos from the event show town residents armed with guns were joined by members of the Three Percenters – a group described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-government militia – dressed in military fatigues and tactical vests. They carried rifles, pistols and tie-downs similar to those used by law enforcement instead of handcuffs. A man seen on the roof of the antique dealer even had a silencer on his gun.

And on the other side, ostensibly in defense of the protesters, Boogaloo Bois, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, a loosely organized group who believe a second American Civil War is imminent, carried their own guns and tactical gear.

However, not everyone had weapons. Some residents brought bladed weapons. At least two arrived at the scene with broad swords. Others brandished two-by-fours.

For Frederick Dorsey Jr., the 21-year-old who organized the protest, the weaponry was a bit too much. But that was nothing compared to the blatant racism hurled at him by many of those same armed townspeople.

“Lots of Confederate flags,” says Dorsey, whose mother is white and father is black, of the scene. “And I also saw people threatening to hang me from a noose. A few people were making monkey gestures and telling me I had to go back to my own community, when I have lived in Fredericktown for sixteen years. Insults. And then my own mother protested against me.

In the videos, counter-protesters can be seen imitating monkeys and making gestures with their hands that involve being suspended by a noose. When Cheyenne Devereaux, a black drag queen based in St. Louis, walked over to the side of the counter-protesters, a voice could be heard saying, “Whatever thing is, stop it.”

“I’m a drag queen,” Devereaux replied calmly.

“You’re a drag, okay,” the man replied, before another man said, “Secure it. Thread it on from the courthouse.”

  • ADAM HAMLIN
  • Drag queen Cheyenne Devereaux is one of the few people from St. Louis to join rural Missouri protests.

Meanwhile, a Jeep circled the stage for over three hours, blowing up a David Allan Coe song titled “N * gger Fucker”, the lyrical content of which is just as reprehensible as the name suggests.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, many counter-protesters wore Trump clothes and waved flags in support of the president.

“The counter-demonstration was supposed to be a ‘Back the Blue’ protest. But it turned into a Trump rally somehow,” Dorsey said. “I still don’t understand how it happened. [My] the protest did not even concern the police department; it was just to show how racist Fredericktown is.

It looks like Dorsey has made his point. Still, seeing his own family yelling at him threats and insults was more than a little surreal.

“My mother and I have never had a close relationship. Prior to this protest, I haven’t seen her for several years,” said Dorsey, who lives with her father. “And she was on the other side, I guess you could call her the Back the Blue, pro-Trump side, saying I was doing all of this to show my ass, and I’m putting my life on the line and everything. And then my stepdad and his kids said they were going to kill me because I’m doing all this. He kept calling me stupid and saying I had to grow up. And I was like, if what whatever, it’s the most grown-up thing I’ve done.

“I didn’t say anything back, because it wasn’t worth the time for me, because I feel like what I’m doing is right,” Dorsey adds. “And it is very necessary.”

Fredericktown is a small town located about an hour and a half south of St. Louis in the northeastern foothills of the St. Francis Mountains. The city’s early history saw it as a mining hub, with mines just east of the city that were, at one point, the largest source of lead in the United States.

It is the seat of Madison County, with just under 4,000 people and a population of 96% white, according to the US Census Bureau. The city has two primary schools, a middle school and a high school.

In some ways, Fredericktown is familiar to Adam Hamlin, 34, a freelance journalist who was taking pictures on the Surreal Stage on June 24. Hamlin grew up in Imperial, an equally small and predominantly white town just an hour north of Jefferson County. He still lives in JeffCo today, but no longer in Imperial. He explains that his experience gives him a unique vision of the racism that can sometimes be pervasive in small American towns.

“I myself come from a small town. I’m from Imperial, Missouri, which is really small. I grew up there most of my life, but mostly throughout the ’90s, ”says Hamlin. “I know how a lot of these little towns often behave. And I didn’t go to these places looking for that, but they sure didn’t hide it either.”

In the past, Hamlin photographed nature – a much more peaceful affair. But since the events of the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally in 2017 that ended in the murder of Heather Heyer by a white supremacist who deliberately drove his car into a crowd of peaceful protesters, Hamlin has felt compelled to document the events. He also trained as a street doctor, just in case.

“I figured if I could do something, I could bring some medical supplies,” Hamlin says. “But I could also capture what was going on, that way there could never really be a question about what was going on.”

As a result, Hamlin has spent years witnessing and documenting protests across the region – lately, many of them in small towns in Southeast Missouri. He notes that often those who oppose Black Lives Matter protests in more rural communities say they don’t want to see their towns looted and looted – a familiar refrain to anyone who has seen the comments section on a report over the years. last two months. But Hamlin doesn’t buy it.

“That’s the line they give – that they’re just protecting their community – but it’s hard to believe,” he says. “The majority of these protesters who show up in these small rural towns also live there. So they’re not trying to destroy anything, and I know the counter-protesters know that too. But the counter-protesters are also the kind of people who are usually going to have signs on their house that say, “We don’t call the cops” or things like that. So they can say they want to protect their community as much as they want, but I think they’re sort of looking for a show or something that they can participate in that way. ”

Activists at the June 24 protest in Fredericktown faced racist taunts from counter-protesters, such as this gesture graphically illustrating the act of lynching.  - ADAM HAMLIN

  • ADAM HAMLIN
  • Activists at the June 24 protest in Fredericktown faced racist taunts from counter-protesters, such as this gesture graphically representing the act of lynching.

Hamlin has seen counter-protesters behave in all kinds of ways that don’t involve fear or defense, but rather some sort of political theater. At a recent protest in Perryville, he says, a couple drove for hours with a Trump flag – so long they had to change seats at one point – and threw pacifiers at protesters to let hear that they were babies. In another recent protest in Park Hills, Hamlin saw a group of protesters get into a car and start to walk away. Counter-demonstrators chased the car on foot.

Still, Hamlin says what he saw in Fredericktown on June 24 was the most shocking exhibit he has seen since he started.

“It was pretty disgusting, all things considered,” he says. “Like, Perryville had a real Nazi come out and Sieg Heiled and screamed ‘white power’ a bunch, and Fredericktown was even worse than that.”

At one point in Fredericktown, Hamlin says, a man was screaming threats and taunts with so much force that his teeth flew out of his mouth.

“He went to yell something, but instead of the word coming out his upper false teeth popped out. As if they had hit the ground,” Hamlin said. “He just picked them up and put them back in his pocket.”

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