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Scientologists and Nation of Islam Working Together To Reduce Turmoil In Ferguson

Stop The Killing
Credit Joseph Leahy / St. Louis Public Radio
The anti-violence initiative ‘Stop the Killing’ has been wildly popular among street demonstrations in Ferguson since the death of Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson police officer on August 9.

The campaign’s simple message with a design of purple hands held aloft, hearts on each palm, has seemed almost tailor-made to fit the protests of Ferguson’s most popular chant “hands up, don’t shoot!” The chant stems from witness accounts that Brown’s hands were up when he was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson last month.

The initiative, however, started three years before Brown’s death and, according to Kevin Bryant, who designed the anti-violence campaign with his company Conversions Global Marketing, it means something different now.

As Bryant explains, the Nation of Islam initially commissioned the campaign to target urban violence among young black males. “It doesn’t necessarily point to gang violence as it did then,” he said. “Instead, it’s kind of a one size fits all. So, now if you holding up a sign that says, ‘stop the killing,’ it kind of sounds like police violence.”

As the message has come to be associated with Brown’s killing over the past seven weeks, Bryant says demand for Stop the Killing materials has increased one hundred-fold.

“It was just dumb luck,” he said. “Using the symbol of the hand with the heart that it just stopped you and grabbed your attention. Now it applies to the hands-up thing and that’s just cosmic coincidence.”

Though founded by the Nation of Islam, Stop the Killing is supported by a coalition of local groups including Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church, Washington Metropolitan AME Zion Church, St. Alphonsus Liguori Catholic Church, the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church and St. John United Church of Christ.

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