Michael Brown themed 'Hands up!' bonfire to be set on fire on Christmas Eve _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--Hunter LaGrange, bottom left, James Simon, Harold LaGrange, Ashton Shepherd Sr., Damien August Jr., and Donte Woolen are among the people who built a hands up bonfire on the Mississippi River's West Bank across from Harold LaGrange's home in Lucy, La. in St. John Parish Monday, Dec. 22, 2014. The bonfire is part of a protest of grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City. The bonfire tradition dates back to the 1800s and is supposed to direct Papa Noel, the Cajun version of Santa Claus, to deliver presents in the Greater New Orleans area.


Following months of protests and demonstrations over the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was shot by a white police officer in suburban St. Louis, a group of River Parishes residents built and burned a 17-foot-tall wooden structure in Lucy that shows the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture that has become synonymous with protests against the August killing, which spurred a national debate about ongoing tensions between law enforcement and the black community.

The bonfire burned Wednesday night, along with many more traditional constructions that typically line River Road this time of year in a tradition that dates back to the 1800s.

“We just got to talking about it, and with all the stuff that’s going on, we decided to do something just to show some solidarity, a little tribute and something different, something unique,” said Harold LaGrange, a Lucy resident who helped organize the effort. “It started out talking about having one hand in the air — like a No. 1 — but the more we started getting into it, we decided, ‘Let’s do the “hands up” gesture.’ ”