More than 70 people representing several local organizations rallied Sunday afternoon outside the Governor's Mansion to mourn what the NAACP described as the "death of civil rights."
The "mourning" was held in large part because of Senate Bill 43, a state law taking effect today that makes it harder to prove discrimination in court.
"Senate Bill 43 represents harm to humanity at its core," said Rod Chapel, president of the Missouri NAACP and a local attorney. "There is not a family in Missouri who will not be affected."
A Jefferson City police officer and state trooper were stationed at the rally, which was peaceful and had no counter-protesters. It was not known whether Gov. Eric Greitens and his family were in the mansion at the time of the protest.
The NAACP previously enacted a "travel advisory" in Missouri — warning would-be travelers to avoid the state because of the deterioration of civil rights conditions.
"If we in the state of Missouri, we as individuals, are complacent, if we are willing to participate in the sham on justice, the sham on humanity, the indignities that each individual will receive will be small in comparison to what harm will come to the next generation," Chapel told the crowd.
Other mourning events took place in Kansas City and St. Louis on Sunday, with what Chapel said was a similar theme: "the death of civil rights as we know it, and the rebirth of Jim Crow."
Missouri Gov. Greitens signs discrimination billRead more
He said SB43 legalizes individual discrimination and that many Americans are concerned that civil rights in the country are taking a step backward.
Michelle Scott-Huffman, president of Faith Voices for Jefferson City, said many people of faith joined in the rally because they believe discrimination is sinful and wrong.
"For our state to be able to go back 50 years in our standards to prove discrimination is an affront to the people, and that's completely immoral and unethical," she said. "Starting tomorrow, someone who is discriminated against in the workplace or in housing or some other situation is going to have much harder time proving that."
She said SB43 is the main reason her group was involved, but said there's a "whole host of reasons," including the Missouri Legislature "actively killing people" by not expanding Medicaid and giving people access to medical care and by continuing to cut benefits that keep people alive.
"I'm scared," participant Joan Keenan said. "Horrible things happen when good people stand around and do nothing."
At the end of the rally, many of the participants placed a single rose on a mock burial casket with a sign containing the words "discrimination," "hate" and "violence" above it.
Some people attended to support other related issues. Dick Dalton, a member of People for Peace, said he supports the removal of Confederate statues, and even though it's been discussed for a long time, "it takes a spark to say, 'this (keeping them) is not right.'"
He said he participated in Sunday's event because "this is what I live for — love, not hate."