Hundreds attend march started by teachers in St. Louis area

KIRKWOOD, Mo. (AP) — More than 1,000 people poured into the streets Saturday in the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood to promote unity and fight against systemic racism.

The march, organized by Kirkwood School District teachers who call themselves the “Kirkwood Teachers of Color,” was the latest in the area following George Floyd's death in police custody in Minneapolis, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“The purpose today is to walk peacefully,” said Roberta McWoods, an organizer of the march who’s a retired North Glendale Elementary School teacher and Kirkwood High School’s head track coach. “Protests come in different ways, but as teachers ... we want to be models for our students on the form of protest that we would like them to see so that everyone can hear us. Today is about getting that message out and uniting with the world that we’re all one.”

The walk began with some remaining silent for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time an officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck.

The majority of those in Saturday’s walk were white, an observation not lost on some who recalled fewer white people joining protests in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson.

Ryleigh Palmer, 17, who is white and lives in Kirkwood, said she became emotional by the sight of so many white participants in Saturday’s march as she watched with a friend.

“I almost started to cry,” said Palmer, who has joined recent protests in Ferguson.

Hundreds turned out for protests in Kansas City, with separate gatherings downtown and at the Country Club Plaza entertainment district. The Kansas City Star reported there also was a demonstration of about 150 healthcare workers and students who gathered as part of a White Coats for Black Lives event to show their support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Columbia Missouri reported that hundreds attended a rally in Columbia organized by the Columbia NAACP and Mid-Missouri Peaceworks.

Protests around the state earlier in the week turned violent but have been peaceful in recent days.

Police are looking for 42-year-old Barry Brooks Jr., of University City, and 19-year-old Jeffery William Mogg, of Herculaneum, who are charged with first degree property damage, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Brooks also is charged with third-degree assault. Ferguson police said in a Facebook post that he punched a 77-year-old woman in the face “because she had the courage to stand up to him while he was damaging property during a protest.”

Mogg, whose charges stem from damage done to the Ferguson Police Department building, also is charged with resisting arrest.