On Monday night as protestors and a heavily militarized police force once again took to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri on the one year anniversary of Michael Brown’s murder, it was hard not to experience a sense of déjà vu. Watching livestreams and following the events on Twitter, one got the feeling that these images were re-runs from a series we’d already seen before, one that’s become all too common over the course of the last year throughout the country. Ho hum, just another night in the life of the American Police State.
But then, just after midnight, an image of something we certainly hadn’t seen before caught our attention. It was a photo posted by Lynden Steel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch showing a young woman standing vigilantly in front of a line a police officers, as if defending them, a sort of mirror opposite of the iconic defiant Tiananmen Square photo.
“Lexi, 19, stands to protect cops,” Steel’s tweet read. "'I would rather get hit by something than let it hit them.'"
The dissonance of the young woman’s intentions were striking on a political level—one doesn’t typically associate teenage college students with pro-police sentiments. But even more so than that, particularly for the internet meme-sausage chuckle apparatus, was the fact that Lexi was wearing, of all things, a Fall Out Boy T-shirt, backwards baseball hat, and over-sized “hipster” glasses, a pretty far cry from the usual pretend Army boy Oath Keepers also roaming the streets last night, or of the exceptionally young looking black teenager (either 12 or 18 according to conflicting reports) who had been handcuffed by police.
Defend pop punk. And police, I joked. Many others followed suit, transposing Lexi’s image onto all manner of incongruent backdrops, from Mad Max, to Harry Potter, to many other no doubt very funny and not at all hacky memes. “This aint a scene, it’s a goddamn arms race,” plenty of others added. “Number one with a bullet.”
The young woman, as it turns out, is Lexi Kozhevsky, and she’s a nursing student at St. Louis University. I tracked her down to ask her what her message actually was, how she’s been dealing with all of the attention, and, most importantly, what’s up with that Fall Out Boy T-shirt.
Noisey: You've gotten a lot of attention from the media, have you done many interviews yet?
Lexi Kozhevsky: Oh yeah it’s been overwhelming. A few. I’ve done like two radio interviews, then I think I’m going into a place to do one later today.
Why do you think people have grabbed on to this story and this image of you?
I honestly think people need someone… I think I’m like a figurehead almost. I think a lot of people have the same opinion as I do but are too scared to voice it themselves, so when I did, people caught attention, whether it be negative or positive.
Has it been hard to deal with? Have you seen all the memes?
I haven’t even seen the memes yet. No, it’s not going to bother me. I expected the backlash honestly. I knew what I was getting myself into as I stood there.
Lexi,19, stands to protect the enemies of Goku, "I would rather get hit by something than let it hit them." pic.twitter.com/MTACVRlY9c
— Glen Coco (@MrPooni) August 11, 2015
When did you decide to go down yesterday?
When I heard it was a state of emergency, I felt like I had to see it for myself because I live really close. I was like, this is history happening right now in front of me. I saw how the protesters were acting and I don't think all the cops deserve that, so I just decided to do what I thought was right and stand in front of them.
Do you live in Ferguson? How would you describe it to people who have never been?
I live in University City, not far away. Going into Ferguson I couldn’t tell anything was wrong, it looks like a very nice community, a lot of shops. When I got to the main street, I saw Michael Brown spots, it was sad to me for sure. But it’s not as bad as people are making it out to be. It’s just an extreme group of people are giving peaceful protesting a bad name.
What else did you see going on? Was there much violence? Pepper spray?
The most violent thing that happened when I was right by the cops was a water bottle was thrown, and it was pretty nerve-wracking because you never know what was being thrown. I just felt bad for them because it was a lot of slurs. It’s not like all the cops are doing it because they want to, it’s their job, they have to.
— Billy Ray Hamburger (@frknbns) August 11, 2015
A lot of people are calling you racist. How does that feel?
I expected that. I’m not in the least bit racist. I totally agree that racial discrimination is a rampant thing going on in our country, racial profiling. I know if I was pulled over, compared to a black man, I know I’m going to get off free. I’m not saying it’s not a problem, and I think peaceful protesting is good. When it gets violent, the strategy needs to be changed.
So one of the things people are really excited about for some reason is your Fall Out Boy T-shirt. Why did you decide to wear that to the protest?
[Laughs] I don’t really know. I mean that was my outfit for the day, I didn’t plan on going there in my Fall Out Boy T-shirt, it was just my outfit.
You like new Fall Out Boy or old better?
That’s hard, but probably old Fall Out Boy.
Any other pop punk bands you’re into?
I like everything. I would say alternative. I have a few rappers I like, have some EDM, all that jazz.
That’s teamwork, Lexi! pic.twitter.com/dNo7o7N0gV
— adam smoot (@adamsmoot) August 11, 2015
Do a lot of your friends share your opinions and politics, do you think?
Well, in high school I realized that a lot of people had different opinions than I did, so it was kind of hard. A lot of my friends didn’t want to be friends with me anymore. In college, I found people with similar opinions because there are people from multiple places. I think it depends on the demographic really.
What about parents, do they share your politics, did you learn respect for authority from them?
From my grandparents, yeah I did.
Have you ever gotten in trouble yourself?
No, I have had a few traffic violations, that sort of thing, but never actual trouble.
What do you think is going to happen in Ferguson, will these sorts of protests and violence continue?
I’m pretty sure it will keep going. It’s just how I feel. I think it’s going to be a yearly thing now. I don’t know necessarily if it’s going to be violent. I don’t think so. Some of the protesters have the right ideas, there’s a few that just make me want to stand for the police.
Lexi,19, stands to protect Lord Voldemort's army, "I would rather get hit by something than let it hit them." pic.twitter.com/WQOnsakAH9
— Glen Coco (@MrPooni) August 11, 2015
Did the police say anything to you?
At first they were like “back up,” and I was like “no” I want to stand here and help you guys. And once the aggression started happening, people putting on bandanas and other things, one officer in particular walked up to me and was like, “Are you sure you want to be a target?” I was like, “I’m positive, I’m standing for what I believe in.”
Well, I have to say, I disagree with you completely, but I suppose you have to admire someone standing up for what they believe in. Do you think this is an intractable issue, and that the two sides will never be able to come together?
I’m hoping the two sides will come together. It’s not a one-sided thing. The cops need better, not as rough training, to say the least, and protesters need to be more peaceful. But it needs to happen on both sides. Maybe in the future it will, but at this present day, I don’t think so.
Have you been following the Presidential primaries. Anyone you favor in particular?
I don’t claim either party. This is my first year being able to vote so it’s not like I’ve ever gotten to vote before. I’ve taken some tests and they always said I was in the middle. I’m digging Carly Fiorina on the Republican side right now. She probably won’t make it because she doesn’t have the numbers, but the way she speaks is very eloquent. I respect what I’ve heard for her so far.
— DangerBoy (@PuncherJetpack) August 11, 2015
What do you expect to happen for you next? Do you want to keep the media attention going?
I’d rather it just die down. I go to school, I have family. I think it’s lovely people are paying attention and it’s awesome. But at the same time I don’t want to be noticed too much. I don’t want to walk into somewhere and have people be like, “hey, you're that girl.” Maybe I‘ll get cussed at, and maybe they’ll hug me, and I just don’t like that.
Anything else you want people to know?
Um, I mean I have nothing to say, really. I stand by what I did, and in no way am I against protesting. I’m not racist, I just wanted to show people that not all cops are bad.
Luke O'Neil, 37, was always more of a Brand New guy. Follow him on Twitter.