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Louisville Seminary Student Among Those Arrested During Ferguson Protests

David Wigger said his faith took him earlier this week to Ferguson, Mo., and his crossing of a police line put him under arrest.“We just walked between two officers, past them,” said Wigger, a student at the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary.He alleged an officer told him to stop, but Wigger kept going, flanked by a group of fellow clergy members. He said he told the officer he would not comply with his command to stop.  The group took a few more steps before being apprehended, according to Wigger.Wigger and a seminary theology professor were arrested earlier this week during a “Moral Monday” march in Ferguson, a small city outside St. Louis that has been the epicenter of civic unrest and outrage following the early August fatal police shooting of an unarmed African-American man, 18-year-old Michael Brown. The protests re-ignited recently in the wake of another police shooting in the community.“Change is going to come out of this,” Wigger told WFPL Thursday.  “And the young people leading the charge are not going to rest until change happens.”The other arrestee from Louisville, Shannon Craigo-Snell, is a theology professor at the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary.  They were part of a small group that traveled to Ferguson from Louisville earlier this week to take part in the protests. About 50people in all were arrested Monday, according to media reports.Wigger, 28, attended middle and high school in Louisville and is in his last year of study at the seminary.  He discussed his Ferguson experience with WFPL on Thursday.Why he went:Wigger said his faith is the driving force behind his passion for racial justice.“It has a special place in my heart,” he said.He said once he arrived he could sense it was different than other protests he has been a part of.“Other protests have tried to be kind of loud, but there is something that ends when the protest is over,” he said.  “Ferguson is not that.”“I also wanted to do what little bit I could to support the real leaders in this movement and the real youth who are standing up, and who are getting called thugs and looters and rioters for just saying they want to be treated with respect and as humans.”What he saw:“Everything that I saw that weekend was very peaceful, incredibly peaceful,” he said.He said he attended church services, protest training sessions, rallyies and a hip-hop concert with performers like Talib Kweli and Tef Poe.Wigger recalled attending a rally with speakers Cornell West and Jim Wallace.  It was scheduled to be a three hour discussion.  Two hours in, however, Wigger said young people in the crowd stood up and demanded they be heard. He said the rally led to a night protest led by younger people.“It was amazing to me to see how well these young adults are able to lead and how they say, ‘We are going be organized, we are going to be disciplined and we are going to figure out what is the best thing—but we are going to do, we’re not going to sit around and talk about it, we are going to get in the streets right now and we’re going to do it.”The protest culminated into an intersection where a mass gathered to jump rope, play ball and leave messages on the road with sidewalk chalk, Wigger said.The arrest:Following a church service on Monday morning, Wigger and a group of 300 people—mostly members of clergy—headed to the Ferguson Police Department headquarters, he said.“There was chanting, there was singing, there was a memorial, there was a chalk outline drawn,” he said.He and other clergy members began repenting for their sins, Wigger said.  They prayed alongside police.“At one point the officer said to us, ‘If you could see inside my heart right now,'” Wigger said.  “That’s all he said and that’s all he could say, but it was enough.”Sometime after the prayers, protestors began trying to move past the police line.“We were very careful to not push past the police officers,” he said.  “We wanted to make sure we were not doing any physical touching.”Then, Wigger said, he saw a hole in the line.  Wigger claimed he and a small group walked past the line, declining to comply with an officers verbal command. They were arrested.Louisville Seminary confirmed the arrests. And a seminary news release noted that Seminary Trustee Rev. Mary Gene Boteler, a St. Louis resident and pastor at a church there,  met with Wigger and Craigo-Snell following their release from custody.“It’s time for us to wake up.”Wigger said the situation in Ferguson is the spark of change and that race issues are now more a part of an international conversation. He believes the issue of racism are now being brought to the forefront of international conversations and change effort.“We know racism exists,” Wigger said. “But when push comes to shove, do we actually do anything about it?"

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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