Prominent activist Cornel West was arrested this morning in Ferguson, Missouri, where he was participating in the so-called "Weekend of Resistance" and the inaugural Moral Monday, a day of planned protests and acts of civil disobedience. He was among the hundred or so reported protestors and clergy members who marched through the rain to the Ferguson Police Department to ask for their repentance in the deaths of Michael Brown and Vonderrit Myers. As they peacefully pushed across police lines, handcuffs came out. A number of them were arrested, including West—as was his intention. "It's a beautiful thing to see people on fire for justice, but I didn't come here to give a speech, I came here to go to jail," he vowed Sunday night at a demonstration on the campus of Saint Louis University. "I wanna connect organically with the youth, in their effort."
Here he is, being handcuffed and then put into a police van.
Whether his attempt to connect with the youth was a success is less clear, as younger generations of protesters don't seem all so sure that this manner of protest is all that productive. Some reacting to the news of his arrest on Twitter are unimpressed by his act of disobedience, many believing that it is little more than an act of personal publicity:
And now the Ferguson story seems to only be about Cornel West getting arrested there. Fuck him making this about himself.— Candice (@BBCandice) October 13, 2014
U guessed it RT @fabuLaja I feel like cornel west went to Ferguson to be arrested/for publicity— Miles Morales (@Ljay90) October 13, 2014
Others seem to feel that it is too little and too late:
I'm so tired of Cornel West's methods. they are becoming unproductive...the people in Ferguson were already getting arrested for protesting.— Nana Yankah (@NanaYankah) October 13, 2014
Cornell West really got up there and told ppl he came to ferguson to get arrested.. How stupid is that shit? Thats not revolutionary at all— Prophet of Rage (@SouthernKom5ort) October 13, 2014
@WesleyLowery then there's the other variation: show up and you're trying to take over/take it away from local/take it away from youth,— Staci D Kramer (@sdkstl) October 13, 2014
But, as the Washington Post's man on the ground Wesley Morris—who was arrested while covering the initial wave of protests in Ferguson—points out, the decision to participate can be a catch 22 situation for public figures. "Show up for #FergusonOctober and it's 'where were you earlier? You just want photo op!' But don't show up (like sharpton this weekend) and it's 'where are they now?! They were never really down for the cause!'" he wrote on Twitter.
Photo credit: Joshua Lott / Getty Images