16 arrested as demonstrations return to Ferguson

2014-11-29 18:52
Protesters join hands as they defy police during a protest in Ferguson. (Charlie Riedel, AP)

Protesters join hands as they defy police during a protest in Ferguson. (Charlie Riedel, AP)

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Ferguson - Demonstrators across the US disrupted commerce, transit and traffic days after the announcement that a grand jury in suburban St Louis declined to indict the white police officer who fatally shot a black 18-year-old.

Numerous storefronts in the Ferguson area had their windows covered with plywood with messages painted across many of them letting neighbours know that the shops are still open.

Demonstrators temporarily shut down three large malls in suburban St Louis on Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, and then marched in front of the Ferguson police department to protest the grand jury's decision.

Several stores lowered their security doors or locked entrances as at least 200 protesters sprawled onto the floor while chanting, "Stop shopping and join the movement," at the Galleria mall in Richmond Heights a few miles south of Ferguson, Missouri, where Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown, who was unarmed, on 9 August.

The action prompted authorities to close the mall for about an hour on Friday afternoon, while a similar protest of about 50 people had the same effect at West County Mall in nearby Des Peres. And several dozen demonstrators led to a temporary closure of the Chesterfield Mall.

Later on Friday night, a group of about 100 protesters marched down South Florissant Road in front of the city's police and fire departments chanting, blocking traffic and stopping in front of some businesses.

"I served my country. I spent four years in the army, and I feel like that's not what I served my country for," said Ebonie Tyse, 26, of St Louis, as National Guard trucks and police cruisers roamed the street in front of her. "I served my country for justice for everyone. Not because of what colour, what age, what gender or anything," she said.


Sixteen people were arrested, according to St Louis County Police spokesperson Shawn McGuire. Fifteen of those arrested were for misdemeanour peace disturbance.

One man, Joygill Moriah of the Bronx, New York, was charged with assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and peace disturbance. He did not have a listed attorney. Only one of those arrested was from the St Louis area. Eight were from New York City.

Brown's killing reignited a debate over how police treat young black men. It drew attention to racial tensions simmering in Ferguson and other US communities four decades after the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Two-thirds of Ferguson's residents are black but the police force is almost entirely white.

Monday night's announcement that Wilson wouldn't be indicted for fatally shooting Brown prompted violent protests that resulted in about a dozen buildings and some cars being burned in Ferguson. Dozens of people were arrested.

The rallies have been ongoing but have grown more peaceful this week, as protesters turn their attention to disrupting commerce. Elsewhere on Friday, protests in Chicago, New York, Seattle and northern California - where protesters chained themselves to trains - were among the largest in the country on Black Friday.

In Oakland, more than a dozen people were arrested after about 125 protesters wearing T-shirts that read "Black Lives Matter" interrupted train service from Oakland to San Francisco, with some chaining themselves to trains.

Later in San Francisco, a march by hundreds turned ugly as protesters smashed windows and hurled bottles and other objects at police, leaving two officers injured.

Police responded by making arrests but have not said how many. Dozens of people in Seattle blocked streets, and police said some protesters also apparently chained doors shut at the nearby Pacific Place shopping centre.

In Chicago, about 200 people gathered near the city's popular Magnificent Mile shopping district, where Kristiana Colon, 28, called Friday "a day of awareness and engagement". She's a member of the Let Us Breathe Collective, which has been taking supplies such as gas masks to protesters in Ferguson.

"We want them to think twice before spending that dollar today," she said of shoppers. "As long as black lives are put second to materialism, there will be no peace."

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon on Friday announced that he will call a special session of the General Assembly to provide funding for public safety efforts related to protests. A news release from his office said that due to the increased presence of the State Highway Patrol and the Missouri National Guard in the region, the state's financial obligations for emergency duties are on track to exceed what had been appropriated.

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