Cori Bush on election night

Cori Bush, a Democratic candidate for Missouri's first congressional district, poses for a portrait outside of her campaign headquarters on election night in Northwoods on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. Bush is challenging Democrat Lacy Clay, the first district's representative since 2001. Photo by Chris Kohley, ckohley@post-dispatch.com.

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JEFFERSON CITY — U.S. Rep. Cori Bush said in a tweet on Monday that white supremacists hid behind a hill and shot at protesters in Ferguson following the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown Jr. there.

Reaction to the statement on the social media site was swift and angry, with many accusing the congresswoman of lying. 

Asked for more information about incidents of white supremacists shooting at protesters, a spokesperson for the Bush campaign issued this statement Monday night:

“While on the frontlines of the Ferguson Uprising, Congresswoman Bush and other activists were shot at by white supremacist vigilantes. The question we need to ask is why white supremacists feel empowered to open-carry rifles, incite violence, and put Black lives at risk across our country.”

Ferguson Police Chief Frank McCall Jr. said Monday he didn’t know that there was any record of such an incident.

“None that I’m aware of,” he said, adding he wasn’t aware of any incidents that the tweet might be referencing.

McCall was named as police chief in July; prior to joining the Ferguson Police Department, he was a veteran officer and chief at the Berkeley Police Department.  

Bush, who rose to prominence in the aftermath of the Ferguson protests, was tweeting about Kyle Rittenhouse, who is standing trial for shooting three people and killing two of them at racial injustice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year.

“When we marched in Ferguson, white supremacists would hide behind a hill near where Michael Brown Jr. was murdered and shoot at us,” Bush tweeted. “They never faced consequences.

“If Kyle Rittenhouse gets acquitted, it tells them that even 7 years later they still can get away with it,” Bush said.

Ohun Ashe, who has been active in local protests, said on Twitter that Bush’s account was true.

“I vividly remember hiding under porches in Canfield as shots were fired at us,” she said. “No one came to help us. Ferguson police would be nearby. We would come from under porches using cars as shields in between gun shots to make it out.”

She shared a 2020 article about a man accused of driving through a crowd of protesters in Brentwood and firing shots. “White folks have shot at us in broad daylight. Nobody has to lie,” Ashe tweeted. 

Heather De Mian, who livestreamed the Ferguson protests from her wheelchair, recalled an incident in January 2015 when shots were fired at protesters, injuring one. She said she didn’t know the identity of the assailant.

In a message to the Post-Dispatch, De Mian said “I can't tell you who shot at us, but it was semi-auto gunfire from the hill behind Canfield where a group of us were socializing in the street around the Mike Brown memorial. At least 10 shots went off before I could wheel behind a car. I couldn’t tell you how many more after that, but a lot. It was on Martin Luther King Day (January 19) in 2015.”

She said a bullet grazed a woman whose full name she couldn’t recall. That woman stopped coming to protests after that incident.​

State Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, a St. Louis Democrat who has been involved in protests for years, said it was common for agitators to show up at protests and cause trouble.

Aldridge said he didn’t doubt Bush’s account because of his personal experience.

Days after Brown’s death, the Southern Poverty Law Center warned that Ku Klux Klan entities in at least three states planned to be in Ferguson.

Several armed members of the Oath Keepers, a group labeled as extremist by some hate-watchdog organizations, spent time in Ferguson, even though then-St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar called their presence “both unnecessary and inflammatory.”

No known members of either the KKK nor the Oath Keepers were charged in any shootings.

In March 2015, two police officers who were part of a security line outside the Ferguson police headquarters were shot, causing some protesters to flee and others to drop to the ground. One officer was hit in the shoulder; the other, in the cheek. Belmar said at the time he believed the officers were targeted, and the shooting brought swift condemnation from a wide range of public officials, as well as protest leaders, who insisted they repudiated violence. 

Jeffrey Williams, convicted in December 2016 in connection with the shooting, said he wasn’t aiming at police, but rather was returning fire after an unidentified person shot at his vehicle.

Originally posted at 8:38 p.m. Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. Updated at 6:47 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16, with reporting by The Associated Press on the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Ku Klux Klan and the Oath Keepers.

Jack Suntrup • 573-556-6186

@JackSuntrup on Twitter

jsuntrup@post-dispatch.com

This article originally ran on stltoday.com.

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