Anatomy of an Occupy-Style Protest in St. Louis

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Within hours of a fatal police shooting of an 18-year-old man, who police say fired three shots at an officer Wednesday night, angry and distraught protesters were in the streets of St. Louis demanding justice for Vonderrit Myers.

At least that's how most of the news reports on Thursday will explain it.

But was it really an organic, take-to-the streets protest, the result of genuine grief and anger? Or was it the result of professional agitators who take advantage of these opportunities to promote their agendas? As it turns out, it was some of both.

There were several livestream feeds that popped up almost immediately after the shooting was reported, and they documented the anatomy of these modern protests. If you happened to tune in during the night, you saw a bizarre mix of south St. Louis residents, trained Occupy protesters (some of whom claimed to be veterans of Occupy Oakland), masked anarchists, and people who seemed like they just saw a line and thought the only sensible thing to do was to get in it.

At times the atmosphere was festive. People were singing, mugging for the camera, dancing. Those folks didn't seem especially upset about the death of Vonderrit Myers, but looked like they were making the most of the gathering and they were having fun socializing. Others were professional protesters. They talked about the uprising in Hong Kong and complained about Monsanto, Ferguson, the greedy corporations, and a whole list of other grievances they thought people should really, really care about. A few pitched their own upcoming protests for their very important causes. Many of them came prepared with gas masks.

There were green-hatted legal observers on hand with clipboards to make sure the police didn't make any mistakes, a couple of guys in Spider-Man masks, and a few young men wearing ISIS-style head coverings. There were also some (obviously high) blonde kids with black hoodies who were sexually harassing female police officers and there was a group of hipsters in skinny jeans that didn't seem to belong, except that they were well-versed in direct action protest protocol.

One man, who said he is with the African American Defense League (associated with the Black Panthers), said the time for peaceful protests is over. "They kill us, we gotta kill them back. F**k the march sh**!" he said. He also wanted everyone to know that if you have any melanin in your skin, there is no cure for ebola (because only black people have melanin or something). "Ebola's got a cure for only white people," he said, "You type it into google and you'll see."

Occasionally a group of what seemed to be genuine, local protesters would chant slogans about the evil cops and how they're hunting black kids in the streets. Every time they'd see  a cop they'd chant "Hands up! Don't shoot!" or "Give us our sh** or we gonna shut this sh** down!"