11/29 Ferguson Call: Notes, Next Steps and Audio

Where do we go from here?

Thanks to so many of you who joined us for the SURJ call on Ferguson this weekend.  We got a great response from the 1,100 people who registered, more then 500 people who were on the call and many others who were unable to join.  You can find notes, additional resources and an audio link to the call below.

As promised, here are materials and information to help you engage more white people in local actions in support of Mike Brown, the people of Ferguson and the ongoing fight against systemic racism.


  • Monday: #HandsUpWalkOut –#FergusonAction is asking you and your organizations to support a mass walk out on Monday at 1:01pm ET / 12:01pm CT / 11:01am MT / 10:01am PT —the time that Mike Brown was murdered. Folks can put their hands up as they leave their job, schools or wherever they are and gather together. Please share widely on social media using #HandsUpWalkOut.  Click here for an image to share.
  • Join Ferguson Actions national text network. Text “HANDSUP” to 90975.
  • Build a local legal support team. Get the basics on our conference call this Wednesday, December 3rd at 8pm ET/ 7pm CT/ 6pm MT/ 5pm PT. Register here.

We want you!

SURJ was created to engage more white people in action for racial justice.  Please take a minute to make sure we have the best information for you so we can connect you to others in your area and support your work on the ground.  You can also find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or check out our website for more on SURJ.

Key Messages

Here are the main ideas we, as white people should communicate at actions and in public as we stand with #Ferguson:
  1. CONTEXT:  What happened in Ferguson is not the exception but the rule in a system based on white supremacy.  People of Color have endured hundreds of years of systemic racism and oppression. Today one of the main sources of oppression is the mass incarceration system that disproportionately targets People of Color, and a judicial system that does not offer all of us equal protection under the law. At SURJ, we believe that the level of anti-black racism and violence endemic in our system didn’t allow for a fair grand jury hearing in Ferguson.

  2. SOLIDARITY: What is happening in Ferguson and around the country through an increase in police violence impacts all our struggles.  When government (via the police) is allowed to kill without consequence, People of Color carry the brunt and all our civil liberties are at risk.  This puts a chill on all activism.  White people need to identify our mutual interest with People of Color and what our stake is to make deep and systemic change.

  3. WHITE SILENCE: White silence stokes the racism that divides People of Color and White working class people, who have every reason to stand together for better wages, better air, affordable housing, and an end to war.  We need to stand together with communities targeted for police abuse, because otherwise, we cannot build the unity we need to move forward.  It is in the interest of white people to stand against this repression for our own lives and those of people we love.

  4. NATIONAL CRISIS: People of Color have called for White people to act.  People of Color are putting their bodies on the line and it is time for White people of conscience to do the same. White people need to make a choice, right now. All over the country, White people are already taking nonviolent action, from marching in the streets to creating legal defense funds.  These issues affect us all.

Our commitment is to take action now to raise the tension and support Ferguson, and we will be organizing with you to engage more white people in the future to address the root causes of this state violence.

Yours in Struggle,

Dara, Carla, Sam, Meta, Sean, Lisa, Murphy, Pam and JLove
SURJ Leadership Team 

Call to the Conversation:  

An important call to engage more white people in racial justice work in the aftermath of the Grand Jury in Ferguson. We will be discussing state violence and the impact it has in all of our communities, specifically communities of color. We will share strategies for engaging white people in the current moment and beyond. The recent murders of Akai Gurley, in Brooklyn and Tamir Rice and Tanesha Anderson in Cleveland (and the list grows) are tragic reminders of the need for national coordination and bold action.

This a call for white people who are:

  • Currently or interested in organizing locally for racial justice;
  • Engaging in hard conversations with family and friends on race and need more tools

It was convened by Showing Up for Racial Justice- SURJ in coordination with FergusonAction.com.

Link to audio recording from the call here

Welcome from Dara Silverman, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)

  • 1,000 people registered for the call and during call up over 450 were on
  • SURJ is committed to engaging more white people in taking action for racial justice

Why are folks motivated to be on this call?

Sandra: interested in being on the call because Seattle is an intense and segregated city but there is an opportunity for people who are white to show support and desegregate Seattle

Beth: from Bloomington, Indiana Indiana has a long history with the KKK.  Working with effort called Within our Lifetime – this is an important movement moment to connect implicit bias with other work going on around the country

Carter: in Montpelier, Vermont looking to connect from folks who are in Vermont, parent of a 5 year old cisgender male, and wanting to expand conversations on how to show up

Kelsey: from Ireland to Pensacola, Florida, concerned with the apathy and lack of current engagement/dialogue between white people and the face of the system that is not designed to protect people of color

Report from Ferguson

Jeff Ordower, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment

(MORE) in St Louis

  • The Ferguson prosecutor did what they could to create the largest possibility of violence, including the governor calling for a 30 day state of emergency and a unified command where police weren’t clear on who was in charge where
  • Rather than use de-escalation techniques, within an hour they were tear-gassing people and using other techniques in Ferguson and throughout the region
  • It was almost as if it was orchestrated to create conditions for violence and that was coupled with the fact that over the last 3.5 months – in an incredibly racially divided region – the prosecutor essentially acted as Darren Wilson’s defense attorney
  • We are in an incredible place in history with thousands of people in motion
  • We are here in a movement against white supremacy and for black liberation
  • Resistance is being led by new groups formed by African American youth
  • Just last night, 1,000 people took over a major mall in St Louis and shut it down
  • People have been courageously blocking highways, standing up to pepper spray
  • An action council has been formed to organize actions of white racial justice activists
  • Example of recent action:  white people organizing groups of racial justice Christmas Carolers in wealthy neighborhood
  • People are organizing in affinity groups.  Some are multiracial, some are African American youth groups, some are predominantly white groups – planning actions together and also planning their own actions
  • Police over reaction has been dramatic.  SO organizing jail support has been critical
  • Raising funds to get people out as quickly as possible, and getting them ongoing legal counsel.  Working with public defenders and pro bono lawyers as part of a legal collective.
  • Critical to frame this as a fight for liberation and fundamental change
  • Sadly, there will not be justice for the three people who were killed by police in the region, but there is a chance we can win change with ongoing struggle
  • Several victories:  there will be front-facing body cameras on police in Ferguson, city forgave municipal warrants, and on a path to win civilian oversight of police throughout the region because of the continued disruption and courage

Report from Louisville SURJ

Carla F Wallace, Louisville SURJ

  • Being connected to the strong, clear leadership out of Ferguson has been key to our organizing here
  • Our organizing is focused on how to interrupt white silence by getting white people visible and in motion around Ferguson and police violence issues locally
  • Louisville SURJ has been organizing for a couple of years so what we can do now comes out of those relationships, the organizing over time
  • Hundreds were in the streets in response to Ferguson, led by youth of color, and longtime Black activists noted the surge in white participation
  • What can happen in your area will look different depending on whether you are in a large city, small city, town or rural area, but in all areas, we can create visibility of white people taking a stand for racial justice
  • Our focus is on bringing white people into action, people already open and looking for way to engage
  • We use a mutual interest focus, rather than an “ally” focus, to talk about what kind of community we want to be, and building a community that works for all of us
  • We have a minimum wage campaign going on here, for instance, and we are talking about how racism is being used to divide us and weaken all of our abilities to make change
  • We have an effort to get white people to write letters, to come out as white people when they write those letters and call on others to take a stand for racial justice.  In this way we create a different narrative coming from white people, in the media and elsewhere that supports more white people coming out for racial justice
  • Our organizing framework is tht there is a need for immediate need for action now connected to long-term relationship building to grow the base of white people committed to racial justice

Report from Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) in NYC

Rachel McCullough, JFREJ

  • JFREJ is committed to struggle for systemic change that results in concrete improvements for folks in their everyday lives
  • Our work supports people struggling in low income communities and immigrant communities
  • We re thinking about what it could look like to harness the power of a movement-moment
  • There are a lot of new people coming into motion and a lot of new people opening their eyes and putting their bodies on the line.  So we are asking how do we catalyze that into long-term systemic change?
  • JFREJ is part of a local coalition called Communities United for Police Reform and already, over the last several years through coalition building and organizing, have won key reforms to Stop and Frisk policies and reforms, and creation of an Inspector General to hold the NYPD accountable
  • JFREJ is continuing to bring white folks from our membership into that work in a long-term sustained way
  • We are in midst of our own grand jury wait in the case of Eric Garner who was murdered by police.  The ongoing cases of police violence is getting us to organize rapid-response networks that get our people showing up for actions, and showing up in ways that feel powerful – toward local campaigns where we are building our base and trying to move on issues of police accountability
  • We are looking at ways we can show up as white folks and especially as Jews, that are deeply compelling to our members and important for our allies and partners
  • We currently have a public mourning effort that recognizes that the loss of a single life is like the loss of the entire world
  • We are bringing our folks together through Black Lives Matter as a rallying cry and to grow the power of this moment

Report from Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites (CARW) in Seattle

Murphy Stack, CARW

  • One form our work is taking right now is folks putting their bodies on the line and creating a front line between cops and activists being targeted, especially activists of color who are leading this work
  • Folks are being witnesses by taking photos, filming, getting close to police when there is an arrest or a conflict and taking risks to document what is happening, asking cops why they are arresting people.  White folks are also acting as medics and all of those roles are helpful ways that white people have been showing up
  • It is exciting to see the organizing that is happening and leading to the ability for future action
  • CARW and European Dissent are getting together to strategize about what’s next in this moment
  • Getting white people to write mutual interest letters stating why they are in solidarity with people in Ferguson in this moment
  • There is a need to engage more white people in the many roles that can be played

Ferguson Action/National Messaging

SURJ is focusing on working with white people who are already in motion and tapping into their mutual interest for racial justice.  

Report from Jeff Ordower of MORE based in St Louis.

Four major points around messaging that are interrelated:

  1. PAIN: We feel the pain and share the pain of the Brown family and people of Ferguson.

  2. SYSTEMS: This pain stems from hundreds of years of systemic racism and oppression of People of Color. It stems from a mass incarceration system that disproportionately targets People of Color, and a judicial system that does not offer us equal protection under the law.

  3. THE CHOICE: We have a choice to make: we can continue to ignore the voices of young People of Color, the tensions between the police and the community will continue, and things will get worse for all of us. OR, we can work together to find solutions, hold law enforcement accountable, and end these systemic abuses. We can pivot from this terrible moment to a better future.

  4. NATIONAL CRISIS: While we are taking action here to call for justice and an end to systemic violence, there are 75 or more cities across the country standing with us and with Ferguson. These issues affect us all.

It is important to be internally clear (as white people) that we are not here to judge the protestors and we don’t know what it is like to live with this kind of systemic racism.  This is  not about some people being good protesters who play by the rules and others don’t. We need to talk about the systems and be clear and not have value judgments.

  1. We have a choice as white people.  We can continue to ignore the voices of young people of color or we can use this moment to find solutions, hold law enforcement accountable, end systemic abuses.
  2. We have to say and show with our actions that this is a national crisis.  We have to make sure that business cannot continue as usual  and call to end systemic violence against people of color.  We need to demonstrate that this cannot go on and that we need to change the system.

Talking points for working with white people

Meta Mendel-Reyes

  • Focus is working with people who are moving and are open to learning and we recognize that our work will look different depending on local conditions
  • What happened in Ferguson is the norm, and not the exception
  • What’s happening in Ferguson and with police violence around the country impacts all of the issues we care about
  • When we stand by while people of color are targeted, all of our civil liberties are at risk
  • In talking with white working class people, we stress that being silent allows racism to divide working class people
  • When white people stand together with communities of color targeted by police abuse, we all get stronger and build the unity we need
  • In talking with faith-based communities, it is helpful to raise the MLK statement that we are all inextricably linked and that “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere”
  • Speak to idea that our basic humanity calls for us to be there for each other
  • There is uncomfortability for white people in witnessing black trauma
  • We want to live in a society where everyone’s humanity is fully valued

Action Framework


  • need to help each other to figure out best ways to do actions in each of our regions
  • we don’t have a lot of models for organizing white people outside the workplace
  • we are looking to each other to work this out

Actions being called for out of Ferguson

Jeff Ordower

  • Monday at 12:01pm Central Time (1pm EST), the time that Mike Brown was murdered, there will be a walk-out for 5 minutes with hands up to demand justice for Mike Brown. This is the first thing everyone can do.
  • Department of Justice can do a lot of things so if folks have abilities to plan actions on Tuesday and Wednesday that are targeting the Department of Justice, that will be helpful (but do something on the day that works best for you)
  • DOJ can arrest Darren Wilson on civil rights charges
  • DOJ can do considerable work toward relieving systemic racism of local police forces through lawsuits and consent decrees on police forces
  • US attorney for the region works directly for Eric Holder
  • Important to organize big, dramatic actions on Tuesday and Wednesday (or other days this week) If there are arrests, this juxtaposes that there is a murderer walking free while others are getting arrested for police protest
  • Legal Defense Fund – setting up legal collectives and jail support systems
    • this is political – having people willing to protest so that the police feel the pressure to release people and treat people fairly – serious organizing component to the legal work as well
  • Resource Generation is mobilizing young donors and organizing people locally in Ferguson and nationally to support the work financially. Here’s a great guide they created of groups to fund in Ferguson.

On the Call, people will break into small groups by region to discuss what people need:

  • What do you need to take action in your region in the next week?
    What do you need to be successful in the next week organizing for justice in Ferguson?

Report backs from small groups:

  • need each other’s contact information to connect with local groups
  • interoccupy network with weekly or regular/periodic phone call opportunities
  • text 90975 with words handsup so that we can get text action alerts
  • can also sign up at FergusonAction.com


  • Can you commit to taking part in a local action for Ferguson? 301 people committed
  • Are you already connected to a local group? Over 300
  • Are you interested in being connected to a local group? 200 plus
  • Will you help us set up a legal fund? 164 people committed


Thanks to those who are committed to racial justice, to putting your bodies out there on the line, engaging more white people through local communities, towns, cities, religious/ethnic/cultural groups, to stand up against violence being perpetrated on people of color that is keeping all of us from being whole as human beings.

See you all on the streets next week!

Notes taken by Natania Kremer and Carla Wallace

Additional Resources:

1. Action Principles (from fergusonaction.com)
  • Advance the leadership of young black people and other young people of color in your actionplanning, choice of spokespeople, and your continued work.
  • Use this moment as an opportunity to address systemic racism, not just the struggle inFerguson.  Connect the fate of Mike Brown with the fate of millions of Black young people everywhere.  Elevate local incidents of police violence known to people in your community.
  • Use the hash tag  #shutitdown in all social media attached to your action.
  • Encourage everyone to join our national text network. Text “HANDSUP” to 90975. This is very important.  If you have a mass action this may be the best way to collect a list.  In the future we will be able to send texts to people based on their zip code.  We will try to send region specific texts in the future.
  • If possible, design your action to be intense, direct, and sustained.  We don’t want this to be a blip, or spasm.  We want a meaningful conversation to be sparked.
  • If possible, develop a creative action.  Be imaginative and think outside the box.
  • If possible, do an action at the DOJ or another federal building.  If those places are not available find a location that will resonate with people in your community
2. Tips for Holding an Effective Action
  • Identify the location and time for your action. The priority target is the Department of Justice and US Attorneys Offices, so hold your action there if possible.
    • For US Attorneys’ offices near you, look here: http://www.justice.gov/usao/districts/
    • For a list of DOJ buildings, look here: http://www.justice.gov/crs/about-crs/regional-and-field-o  If you have time, go there, check out the location and decide how you want to “stage” the action beforehand.
    • If there is not a DOJ location in your city, please consider a location that represents the systemic issues we are trying to address. Some other locations include local police stations, city halls, and state capitol buildings. Even if youraction is already planned for a different location, consider if you can march to an appropriate target.
  • Contact your network to let them know. Use email, facebook, twitter, text messages and phone calls. hashtags are #Ferguson and #ShutItDown
  • At the action: Identify speakers, especially young people of color who have been personally impacted by police violence and discrimination. One speaker should list our demands (attached).
  • Keep the energy up with chants and songs between speakers. “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” has become the rallying cry of the movement.
  • Stay nonviolent! Reinforce the message that we are not the violent ones. Tell your people attending to not touch police or other passers-by under any circumstances, and not to damage property.We are including a one-pager on dealing with police (see attached).
  • Some ways to raise the tension of your action with nonviolence:
    • block street traffic at the action location for up to 15 minutes.
    • If you can get inside the building, go inside peacefully and stage a sit-in.
    • Make noise! Use bullhorns, songs and chants to disrupt business as usual.
    • There is a document attached with advice on how to deal with police
  • Document your action. Take photos and video of the crowd, of speakers, of the building you are protesting, and of any police who intervene in the action, and post them to social media with the hashtag #ShutItDown. We also encourage you to livestream; learn how here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xwv3GhtQqc