A rally and news conference have been organized today by the family of Danye Jones, a 24-year-old man who was found dead, hanging from a tree on his family’s property, earlier this month. St. Louis County says they are investigating Jones’ death as a suicide. But his mother, Melissa McKinnies, a prominent protester who helped organize demonstrators during the Ferguson Uprising in 2014, says her son was lynched in retaliation for her activist work.
McKinnies found her son on the morning of Oct. 17, his body hanging from a bedsheet which was tied around his neck. According to CBS, McKinnies and police confirmed that a chair was found near Jones’ body, McKinnies says she knows her son didn’t kill himself.
In a Facebook post that has since been removed, McKinnies posted a picture of her son’s hanging. “This is what I woke up to. They lynched my baby,” she wrote. “I’m sick and losing my mind but I had to let the world see what they did to my baby.”
Facebook removed the post, but screenshots have been shared by users on other social media networks.
A St. Louis County Police spokesman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Jones’ body was on the ground when police arrived on the scene.
“There were no signs of struggle or trauma to the body. And, he said, the family reported a suicide when they called 911,” writes the Post-Dispatch. Police are still waiting for the results from toxicology tests to determine the cause of death.
But speaking to the Post-Dispatch on Wednesday, McKinnies says her son was murdered as retaliation for her activism.
From the Post-Dispatch:
She insisted he was upbeat, not suicidal, and did not know how to tie the types of knots used in the ligature. The sheet used did not match the family’s sheets. And he had packed an overnight bag, which had been left on the patio, a suggestion that he trusted and had planned to leave the house with the person who killed him, she said.
McKinnies told the Post-Dispatch and KMOV-TV that she and her family have received death threats related to her work organizing protests following the killing of Michael Brown in 2014. Those threats, which were delivered through social media, appeared to have escalated in the last two months.
“They watched my house and when my husband and my son would approach the car, they would drive off,” McKinnies told KMOV-TV.
McKinnies is far from the first person to say she’s been targeted for her role in the Ferguson Uprising, the movement that followed in the wake of Michael Brown’s shooting death at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson. Rev. Darryl Gray, a prominent St. Louis activist, told CBS that activists in the area are still targeted and harassed, mostly via social media and text messages. But others say the harassment has gone even further—police, after all, are still investigating the suspicious deaths of DeAndre Joshua, an activist killed in 2014, and Darren Seals, killed in 2016. Both were found inside torched vehicles.
Some believe that Jones’ hanging may be a continuation of a pattern of killing off prominent activists in the area.
McKinnies said she would elaborate on the death threats she and her family received at a news conference scheduled for Thursday. A rally to support Jones and his family has also been scheduled outside the St. Louis County Justice Center in Clayton, Mo., CBS reports.