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Last month, a crowd tore down a Confederate monument in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, continuing a tradition of iconoclasm initiated in nearby Durham a year ago after the clashes in Charlottesville. Now, as we approach Columbus Day 2018, a panel of experts is debating the fate of the Columbus statue in St. Louis, where several other recent struggles have taken place against police and white supremacy. It’s a good time to revisit the colonization of the so-called New World and Native, African, and underclass resistance against it.

This story extends from the islands of the Caribbean to the settlement that became St. Louis, charting the origins of the statue that stands in Tower Grove Park today. The following text contains many descriptions of graphic violence—the violence that was necessary to impose European colonialism, white supremacy, capitalism, and ultimately the sovereignty of the United States on this land. Christopher Columbus set this violence in motion; Henry Shaw, the commissioner of the statue in St. Louis and the founder of the Missouri Botanical Garden, perpetuated it—as do those who venerate their legacy today.

This text is adapted from the forthcoming historical work, “Many Mischeifes of Very Dangerous Consequence”: Missouri Slavery and Resistance by Leopold Trebitch. You can obtain a print version of this text here.


The Conquest of the Caribbean

In October 1492, Columbus landed on Guanahani, an island in the Caribbean populated by the Taíno people. According to him, the Taíno “brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned… They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… They would make fine servants… With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” Christening the island San Salvador, Columbus began the enslavement and genocide of Native Americans—though it didn’t go as easily as he had anticipated.

In December, Columbus came upon the island of Ayiti, home to somewhere between 100,000 and 3,000,000 Taíno. Knowing the power of names, the Spaniards renamed the Taínos’ home “Hispaniola.” On Christmas Day, one of Columbus’s ships, the Santa Maria, sank while docked along the island, and he ordered the remnants of it used to build La Navidad, the first1 European colonial settlement in the Americas. He then set sail to return to Spain with gold, parrots, and six Taíno slaves.

The Taíno defending the coast of Xaymaca with darts, 1494.

Columbus returned a year later with 17 ships, 1300 men, 20 cavalry, and sugarcane for cultivation. No longer interested in finding Asia, Columbus now fantasized about colonizing Hispaniola for Spain and getting “as much gold as [the King and Queen require]… and as many slaves as they ask.” But when he arrived at Hispaniola, he found the fort burned to the ground and the Spaniards he had stationed there killed by the Taíno, Ciguayo, and Macorix tribes. While Columbus was away, his men had abducted and raped Native people, which the locals would not tolerate.

This was hardly the misconduct of unsupervised underlings. Columbus was well aware of the conquistadors’ desire for sex slaves; on his return trip to Hispaniola, he was already awarding concubines to his officers. In 1500, Columbus wrote a friend that in the Caribbean, “A hundred castellanoes2 are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand.”

Over the course of Columbus’s second voyage, he established a number of forts and villages along the south of the island and in the interior to find gold. Among these early settlements was Santo Domingo, a hub of European colonialism for the next few hundred years. Any inhabitants that the Spaniards found were treated as serfs and forced to bring their lord a quota of gold. Those who were unable or unwilling to meet the quota were beaten, tortured, whipped, maimed, and killed. By the end of 1494, 7000 Taínos were in open revolt.

With difficulty, Spain crushed the uprising, and in its aftermath began to understand that they could make better use of Hispaniola as a sugar plantation laid out in the semi-feudal encomienda model. They saw now that the Taíno would make better slaves than serfs. Over the course of 1495-1496, the Taíno were forced to give up traditional foods for Spanish crops, though many refused to plant or harvest the colonizers’ fuel and chose fasting and starvation instead.

Of the first 500 Native slaves Columbus sent back to Spain, 250 died en route. Hundreds of thousands more slaves would die over the next few decades working in the gold mines and sugar plantations of Hispaniola and resisting Spanish domination. By 1508, not even a full generation after their first contact with Europeans, Hispaniola’s Indigenous population had dropped to 60,000. According to one witness who arrived in the Caribbean in 1502, “The longer [the Spanish] spent in the region, the more ingenious were the torments, each crueler than the last, that they inflicted on their victims.”

Borikén and Xaymaca

The Spanish had known about Borikén, which they renamed Puerto Rico, since 1493, but it wasn’t until the discovery of gold in the early 1500s that they wanted to settle it. By now, Columbus was dead, but other vicious colonizers, including his son Diego Colón,3 had taken his place.

In 1508, Juan Ponce de León and a slew of conquistadors were sent to the island to build a fortified settlement, Caparra, and enslave the local Taínos. Life under the Spanish was cruel; after three years of slavery in the gold mines, enduring the habitual rape of Native slaves, the Taíno had had enough. In a daring act of heresy, a group of slaves cornered a conquistador along a river and tried to drown him—they wished to know whether or not the Spanish were truly gods. Once dead, the illusion of Spanish superiority was gone. Shortly after, the Taíno sacked the town of Sotomayor, killing eighty and severely wounding General Cristóbal de Sotomayor.

The drowning of Diego Salcedo, conquistador, which sparked the uprising of 1511.

Ponce de León responded by engaging the Taíno in a series of battles. To punish them and teach others a lesson, Ponce de León ordered 6000 executions, but many escaped from the island or killed themselves before the Spanish could kill them. The following year, some of Governor Diego Colón’s slaves ran away and waged war on the Spanish for a few months. Try as they might, on both the small and large scale, the Spanish had great difficulty subduing the Native Caribbean population.

At the time of first contact with Europeans, there were between 600,000 and one million people living on Puerto Rico and the nearby Jamaica. After forty years of work, disease, and torture, only 200 Native people remained. The Spaniards, according to Bartolomé de las Casas, “perpetrated the same outrages and committed the same crimes as before, devising yet further refinements of cruelty, murdering the native people, burning and roasting them alive, throwing them to wild dogs and then oppressing, tormenting, and plaguing them with toil down the mines and elsewhere.”

By the 1540s, African slaves had begun to fill the Taínos’ miserable vacancies. Somewhere between 11,000,000 and 100,000,000 Africans were kidnapped from their homelands to supply the labor demanded by Europe’s ruling class throughout the Americas. Between 9,000,000 and 20,000,000 people are believed to have died in the course of being enslaved by the rich and powerful of western Africa and while being transported by European merchants heartless enough to trade in slaves.

Caobana

In August 1511, Diego Velázquez set off from Hispaniola to capture Caobana, which he christened Cuba. To his dismay, four hundred Taínos beat him there to warn the local Guanahatabey, Ciboney, and Taíno about the Spanish. According to folklore, Hatüey, a Taíno from Hispaniola and an influential figure in Native resistance to the colonization of Cuba, showed the inhabitants a basket of gold and warned them:

“Here is the God the Spaniards worship. For these they fight and kill; for these they persecute us and that is why we have to throw them into the sea… They tell us, these tyrants, that they adore a God of peace and equality, and yet they usurp our land and make us their slaves. They speak to us of an immortal soul and of their eternal rewards and punishments, and yet they rob our belongings, take our women, violate our daughters.”

Few of the listeners believed that anyone could be so cruel and most decided, at first, not to join him.

For months, Hatüey and other guerillas kept the Spanish confined to their fort, Baracoa, through a campaign of harassment, intimidation, and sniping. Eventually, however, Hatüey was captured and condemned to be burned at the stake. Before his execution on February 2, 1512, a Dominican priest asked Hatüey if he would like to be baptized so he could go to Heaven and be spared damnation in Hell. “Are there Spaniards in Heaven?” he asked.

“Yes,” replied the priest.

“Then I prefer Hell.”

The execution of Hatuey.

As Spain began to establish footholds in the Caribbean, King Ferdinando II and Queen Isabella I issued a decree justifying Indigenous slavery. It was to be read to all Native people upon first contact with Europeans. The decree declared that all humanity, including Indians, were equals, and that God had left certain people—popes and kings—in charge on earth to do his bidding. The Pope had given Spain free reign of the Americas. Would the Indians submit to God’s representatives and do his will—that is, would they subjugate themselves and become obedient Spanish subjects? If not, then,

“With the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their highnesses; we shall take you, and your wives, and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him: and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us.”

La Florida

Around this time, Spain became interested in colonizing Florida. With three ships full of two hundred men, Juan Ponce de León landed on the west coast of Florida in Escampaba and was greeted by the Calusa.4 Though the Spanish had never heard of the Calusa, the Calusa had heard plenty about them—refugees had been arriving from Cuba for two years. On the tenth day of the Spanish visit, the Calusa attacked them, killing a few and driving the rest back to their ships. The next day, eighty canoes attacked the Spanish and forced them to retreat to Puerto Rico.

Arriving home, the Spanish found their barely five-year-old capitol, Caparra, in disarray. In Ponce de León’s absence, the Taíno had risen up along with Kalinagos5 from a nearby island. They attacked the town and burned much of it to the ground, including Ponce de León’s house, the seat of colonial power.

Four years later, on his return from the Yucatán, Francisco Hernández de Córdoba stopped in southwest Florida—but the Calusa quickly drove him out. Ponce de León returned to Florida in 1521 with two hundred men, priests, farmers, artisans, fifty horses and other domestic animals, and farming implements. Yet once again, the Calusa drove them out as well, mortally wounding Ponce de León himself with a poison-tipped arrow. Several more attempts were made over the years—but other than Christian missions, which altered and destroyed Native life in their own way, Florida remained unsubjugated for generations more.


Before the scene shifts to Missouri, let’s consider two more examples of enslavement and resistance in that era, beginning with the Bahoruco Maroons of Hispaniola, a colony of escapees founded by Mencía and Enriquillo.

Enriquillo was born in the mid-1490s, a Taíno subject of the Spanish. As a child, he witnessed the near destruction of his people. While attending peace talks in 1503, his father and eighty other Taíno delegates were locked in a building which the Spanish set fire to. The conquistadors killed anyone who managed to escape the flames. Enriquillo was taken and raised by Dominicans, among them Bartolomé de las Casas.

In 1519, Mencía was raped by her slave master. When her husband Enriquillo tried to have the Spaniard prosecuted, which was theoretically a right of the Taíno, he was publicly whipped for asserting himself. Mencía and Enriquillo assessed their situation. The new world Columbus had imposed on them was characterized by rape, Spanish impunity, and other cruelties of slave life, the genocide of their people, and the acute pain of losing loved ones. The Church, the supposed moral compass of Spanish colonization, had sided with their master. No, this new world is no place to live, Mencía and Enriquillo decided. They took off for the Bahoruco Mountains.

In the highlands, their camp slowly grew into a maroon community of Native and African runaways of all ages, who together fought the Spanish. After fourteen years and the slaves’ guerilla war bringing the commerce of Hispaniola to a grinding halt, the Spanish offered the maroons a truce. Sadly, Enriquillo passed away a year after it was signed, and four years later the Spanish reneged on the deal. Trust no contract promising freedom.

A statue of Enriquillo.

At the same time that the Bahoruco Maroon camp was getting off the ground, on Christmas Day 1521, between 20 and 40 of Diego Colón’s slaves rose up. Together, they killed their overseers, Colón’s livestock, and burned fields of sugarcane. The group made its way to at least one other plantation before being stopped; the revolt left nine Spaniards dead. The majority of the insurgents were imported African slaves, making this one of the first known African slave revolts in the Americas. Retaliation was fast and severe—most participants were likely captured, tortured, and executed.

Before the revolt, most Spanish slave owners preferred African-born slaves, assuming that they would be more disoriented and dependent on their masters, unable to communicate with each other or fend for themselves in the wilderness. Despite these obstacles, the rebels had been effective, and spilled Spanish blood was making the colonizers rethink their strategy. Within two weeks, Governor Colón passed the Caribbean’s first ordinances concerning African slaves.

Colón decreed that slaves could not leave their master’s property without their master’s permission, and even then their mobility would be restricted. What slaves were allowed to buy and sell was also curtailed, and no slaves, not even loyal ones, were allowed to bear arms.

These laws, alongside others introduced by the Spanish in the Caribbean and supplemented by the white supremacist customs of France and Britain, eventually formed the foundation for colonial and state law elsewhere in the so-called New World—for example, in Missouri. But just as repressive traditions found their way to the Show Me State, so did customs of resistance, spread by subversive storytellers and the insurgents themselves as they were pressed, indentured, enslaved, and transported throughout the increasingly globalized world of the following centuries.

Our story now moves two thousand miles northwest and two and a half centuries forward in history.

Northeastern America in 1719.

The Midwest in 1755.

The Growth of Missouri

In 1763, at the end of the Seven Years War, the Treaty of Paris shifted Europe’s colonies: Illinois became part of Britain’s colony of Virginia, which now stretched from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Mississippi. The lands west of the Mississippi came under Spanish rule and (to confuse things further for the modern audience) Missouri and northern Arkansas were known as Spanish Yllinois. The name was a corruption of the Inoka people, who, along with the land, were misnamed the Illinois. In reality, although monarchs and merchants from thousands of miles away claimed to own what we call Missouri and Illinois, Native Americans were still the vast majority of the region’s inhabitants. The few European settlers throughout the area were living in Native Americans’ homes—and knew it, unlike many of their heirs today. They depended on the region’s tribes for survival and profit.

As British law took effect in Illinois, many French slave owners, fearing repercussions that could harm their financial interests, moved across the river to Missouri. During this colonial period spanning the 1700s, some merchants brought slaves to work in their mines in central Illinois and southern Missouri, but many French settlers weren’t interested in manufacturing a product, preferring to trade for Native furs. Especially in trading towns like St. Louis, some slaves worked in the fields or shipping, but most served as domestic help or performed other forms of household labor. Most slaves were Native Americans; a few were African.

Naturally, slaves who rebelled made use of the same tools they were forced to use every day. The colonial era of slave resistance saw constant petty theft and many large-scale burglaries carried out by slaves in the shipping and service industries, not to mention cooks burning down their masters’ barns and homes or poisoning them and their families.

In late summer of 1785, a series of fires ripped through the village of St. Louis, likely set by disgruntled slaves. Two months later, three more barns were set ablaze as cover for eleven Native and African slaves to escape. They marooned together for a month, living off of the wilderness and what they could pillage from the few European settlements of eastern Missouri. Sadly, four of the runaways were caught while trying to free others in St. Charles and St. Louis. The fate of the other seven remains unknown—perhaps they were adopted by one of the region’s tribes or joined the interracial Mississippi River pirates of southern Missouri.

The enslaved population of St. Louis struck another major blow against the ruling class in the early 1800s, when the slaves of Pierre and Auguste Chouteau tried to light their masters’ mansions on fire. The two brothers, known as the River Barons, controlled the fur trade coming out of the Missouri River—the longest river in the United States. As the wealthiest men in town, they held considerable political and legal power.

Many of their slaves were Native American, and according to Spanish law, their enslavement had been illegal for over a decade. But the crown was based in New Orleans, a three- or four-month trip upstream to Ste. Genevieve or St. Louis and a 12 to 20 day return trip downstream—so the powerful merchants conducted themselves as they pleased.

Before the fires were set, a number of the Chouteaus’ slaves had run away or sued for their freedom. To punish them, Auguste Chouteau had three of his most assertive slaves tied to stakes and beaten. The first arson attempt took place in the wake of these whippings, but the fire was extinguished before it did much damage.

Pierre Chouteau was not so lucky. Three years later, he stood outside in the freezing night air and watched “in the space of one hour… the flames devour the fruits of 25 years of unremitting work.” He was largely speaking about others’ work, of course.

By the time Missouri became a territory of the United States in 1804, Anglo-American settlers had been trickling into the area from the Upland South for at least a generation, bringing with them their slaves and racial customs of land settlement. More often than not, wealthy Southerners from the plantation class went west across the Missouri River with their slaves, settling the middle of the state to form Little Dixie. Poorer Southerners with fewer or no slaves tended towards the Ozarks in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. By the time Missouri gained statehood in 1821, Native American slavery had transitioned into African-American bondage. Population, culture, and law also shifted from French and Spanish to British and American. This transition was hardly smooth.

Settlers from Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee skirmished with and eventually fought wars against Native Americans. Some of these groups had been driven to Missouri a few generations before; others had been living in the region since the beginning of time. Wishing to transform the free wilderness into privatized farmland, the settlers aimed to drive Native peoples from their hunting grounds and homes.

By the time Missouri was recognized as a state in 1821, hundreds if not thousands of settlers were streaming into and through the state annually. Most of these Anglo-American immigrants had been abusing people of color for generations. Many had been raised by parents and grandparents who owned slaves or fought wars of removal against Native Americans to the east. By the early 1800s, even those who had not previously played an active role in the establishment of white supremacy were plugging into two hundred years of British settler traditions.

As westward expansion accelerated in the mid-1800s, Missouri merchants grew rich off the thousands of immigrants and traders going up and down its rivers. Money continued to pour in as overland routes like the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails were established in the territory. Black steamboat workers, barmaids, field hands, cooks, servants, stevedores, and washwomen—both slave and free—played an integral role in supplying and serving this mass migration, though historians have largely rendered them invisible.

Henry Shaw Arrives on the Scene

Young Henry Shaw traveled from Britain to the United States, arriving in this boom town at the heart of 1820s westward expansion. Back home, his family owned cutlery factories, and Shaw hoped to unload their product on westward settlers.6 Eventually, Shaw became wealthy beyond his wildest dreams, tapping into the overwhelming tide of settlers and obtaining military contracts with all nine US forts west of the Mississippi. As settlers displaced Native Americans further west, US soldiers did the actual killing—using Shaw’s hardware, tools, and cutlery throughout their day-to-day lives.

But merchants work two ways, and while Shaw imported goods, he was exporting cotton, tobacco, lead, and sugar—all made with slave labor. By the 1840s, he had become a billionaire by today’s standards, able to retire and tour the royal gardens of Europe. It’s not surprising that Shaw, who made his wealth off the backs of slaves and the blood of Native Americans, chose to honor Christopher Columbus. We should view the statue he commissioned in light of the context in which it was erected.

For those who consider trading and business removed from the blood and gore of capitalist production, let’s conclude with a few anecdotes that highlight what sort of person Henry Shaw was.

From the 1820s to 1850s, Shaw owned at least eleven people. By the 1850s, they were proving unruly. In May 1854, 20-year-old Sarah ran away from Shaw with her four-year-old son. Shaw immediately placed an ad describing Sarah as “medium height, slender, consumptive make, and bad teeth, some of which have been gold plugged in front” and her son as “a strong, hearty looking child, with curly hair.” He instructed anyone who could find them to take them to Bernard Lynch’s slave pen downtown, colloquially known as his “n—– pen,” promising to pay $300 for Sarah and $100 for the boy. Their fate remains unknown—let’s hope they made it out!

Men posing outside Bernard Lynch’s slave pen.

The following summer, Esther and two of her children ran away from Shaw. They likely disappeared into one of the many networks set up by free and enslaved black people in the densely populated St. Louis area. Eventually, they made contact with Mary Meachum, an abolitionist from the local black upper class.

On the night of May 21, Mary Meachum and a free black man named Isaac helped Esther, her two kids, and six other runaways cross the Mississippi just north of downtown. They may have been heading towards the maroon town of Brooklyn, Illinois, a major destination on the Underground Railroad just south of their point of departure. Unfortunately, when they reached Illinois, they were immediately intercepted by a group of slave catchers; in the resulting chaos, only four of the runaways were able to escape. Esther, her children, Mary, and Isaac were all arrested. Mary and Isaac were charged with slave stealing, while Esther and her children were returned to Henry Shaw.

Shaw had Esther whipped, beaten, and, in an act of unimaginable cruelty, sold south away from her children. No one should ever have this right—to separate loving parents from their children.7 Shaw not only had it, but wielded it.

Esther’s escape may have been the final straw for Shaw, however. Within a couple of years, he had rid himself of all his slaves. Keeping them was simply too much trouble. Historians like to say he did this for humanitarian reasons, but it was clearly because his slaves had made owning them more trouble than it was worth.

Nowadays, of course, people prefer to remember Shaw for the flowers in the Missouri Botanical Garden. This is easier than reckoning with the sea of blood that fills the centuries behind us.

Annual balloon release at the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing.

Statues, Streets, and Names

Statues, streets, and institutions are typically used to honor people from the same terrible class as Henry Shaw and Christopher Columbus. We often ignore the stories behind these names on account of the banality and obscurity of the past. Perhaps we also do so because of the monotony of life associated with the buildings and streets themselves—or else, at best, because we’ve infused them with our own meaning.

The Columbus statue is one of countless marks upon the scarred landscape of St. Louis. But we should not remove the statue simply in order to have him out of our minds. Perhaps Columbus should stay, covered in a new coat of red every October, with a new plaque reading, simply, “MURDERER. RAPIST. COLONIZER.”

As we enter an era of exposing these men, let us do more than simply rename institutions that are still exclusive concentrations of wealth, knowledge, and power. If a street we’re forced to traverse as commuters on our way to exploitative jobs or boring classes is renamed after someone we like, it will still be a part of our boring commute. If neighborhoods are renamed after better people, but we’re still policed and excluded or only allowed to exist as consumers, we will have failed once more. Indeed, what’s the use of renaming Shaw Boulevard if young men like Vonderrit Myers, Jr. are still gunned down there by police with impunity?8 Our task is not simply to change the names that sanctify an alienating and oppressive society, but to fundamentally transform this society.

Likewise, we should take care not to elevate the individuals that we ourselves gain inspiration to positions of glory in place of the heroes of white supremacy. Better there be none above us, and none below. Let’s not just topple the monuments, but uproot the pedestals as well.

For a great leveling, both social and material,

Leopold Trebitch, September 2018

Further Reading

Some of the many sources corroborating this narrative:

The Caribbean

Africa

Columbus

Missouri

  • What It’s Like To Reenact St. Louis History,” Jarrett Medlin—An interview with Natashia Griffin, who, along with her children, re-enacts Esther’s attempted escape at the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing

  • Free Black Communities and the Underground Railroad: The Geography of Resistance, Cheryl Janifer LaRoche

  • Mary Meachum

  • Henry Shaw: His Life and Legacy, William Barnaby Faherty, S.J.


Contemporary Taino celebration.

  1. This “first” does not include visits by Africans, Vikings, Asians, or Basque fisherman to the Americas. 

  2. Spanish currency. 

  3. Columbus’s Spanish name, Cristóbal Colón, roughly translates to “Christ-bearer the Colonizer.” 

  4. The Spanish recorded Escampaba as the Calusas’ name for their kingdom. The name Calusa comes from one of the tribe’s leaders in the 1560s, who the Spanish renamed Carlos. Their name for themselves has been completely lost. 

  5. The Kalinago word for people, karibna, became the European word for the tribe, Carib, as well as the area in general, the Caribbean, and the English word cannibal. Though Europeans told many stories of Kalinago cannibalism, little or no evidence of it actually exists. Suspiciously, cannibalism was considered an unpardonable sin, grounds for the legal enslavement of Native people. At this time, European colonial powers were consuming thousands and thousands of humans annually through slavery, forced labor in mines, and nascent plantations in order to produce gold and other products. 

  6. The part of England in which Shaw grew up and where his family’s factories were located was in the heart of the Luddite Triangle. An adolescent during the Luddite uprising, Shaw may have witnessed the machine-breaking, as well as his family’s response. It would also be fascinating to learn his position in the American Civil War (Missourians were very divided on the war, and supposedly there’s no proof of which side Shaw supported) and the General Strike of 1877, which was known locally as the St. Louis Commune. It is easy to imagine his country estate, now known as the Botanical Garden and Tower Grove Park, serving as a refuge for the besieged owning class of St. Louis. 

  7. Today, nearly a million mothers are enslaved in the modern American prison system or else caught up in the courts, parole, and probation—not to mention the families separated by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

  8. Vonderitt “Droop” Myers, Jr. was killed October 4, 2014, less than a month after Michael Brown. His death lead to another wave of anti-police marches, property damage, and burning US flags. The city government and police defended the officer who murdered him, Jason Flanery, and claimed to have cleared him of any wrongdoing. Not until Flanery crashed his police cruiser while drunk and high on cocaine a few years later did the police department finally judge his conduct unacceptable and fire him.