“After the Uprising”: Activists Become Targets and One Mother Pays the Ultimate Price

In 2014, police in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed Mike Brown Jr., an unarmed black man whose final words, “hands up, don’t shoot,” would become a rallying cry for an entire movement.

In 2014, police in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed Mike Brown Jr., an unarmed black man whose final words, “hands up, don’t shoot,” would become a rallying cry for an entire movement. The resulting uprising in the wake of his killing transformed the way we talk about race in America, as regular folks suddenly found themselves activists on the frontlines in a movement that would define our current political climate. For many, it became a lifelong cause. It also made them targets.

Since the racial justice uprisings, dozens of activists involved in the Ferguson protests claim to have been targeted for threats and harassment by powerful police, politicians, and prosecutors. In the years following Ferguson, several of these demonstrators died under circumstances that raised serious questions, with many local activists claiming that local authorities downplayed and under-investigated these cases. One such activist, Melissa McKinnes refused to let fear and intimidation put a stop to her important work. Four years after Mike Brown’s death began a movement, Melissa’s own life would be shattered.

On October 17th, 2018, Mellisa awoke from an unsettling dream. Frightened, she looked around the house for her 24-year-old son Danyé Jones. The lights were on in the basement where he slept, but Danyé was missing. There was only a brick by his bed. Panicking, Melissia ran up the stairs and threw open her porch door. What she saw in her backyard confirmed her worst fears. Her son Danyé was hanging from a tree, dead.

The next few hours were a blur for Melissa. She remembers small details, like the way the rising sun reflected off her son’s dangling legs. Above all else, she remembers the laughter. The laughter of the St. Louis County detective who looked at this horrific scene like it was just another day at the office. The nonchalant way the police scoffed at her anguish and concerns. The speed with which they declared her son’s death a suicide.

None of it made any sense to Melissa, who believes Danyé was anything but suicidal. He wasn’t depressed or despondent, he was excited about life and his future, having just started his own real-estate business. Still, even the most outwardly happy people can hide their true pain, but the physical details of Danyé’s death also raised doubts about the suicide declaration.

Who rolled Danyé’s pants down, and why? Where did the strange sheets by which he was hanged come from? How would Danyé, with no military or scouting experience, know how to tie the complex knots in the noose that took his life? For Melissa, there were too many questions and coincidences involved, and if the police wouldn’t take her seriously, she would find justice the only way she knew how-- by fighting for it.

Melissa and her family took pictures of Danyé’s body. Eleven days after his death, she posted one to Facebook, along with a gut wrenching caption: “They lynched my baby.” Over the next few years, the search for her sons’ murderer would place her on a collision course with powerful forces as she exposed racism and perhaps worse inside the government of St. Louis County, years after the Ferguson movement brought attention and supposed reforms to this locale.

Hear more of Melissa’s story in her own words in the first episode of "After the Uprising," chronicling the discovery of Danyé’s body contrasted with the kind and happy soul he was in life and laying out the initial evidence that there’s far more to his death than the official story reveals, and follow ‘After the Uprising’ on Facebook and Twitter for further updates and insights on Danyé’s story.