Police shooting protests continue in St Louis

2014-10-12 21:20
Police wearing riot gear form a line to contain protesters. (Jeff Roberson, AP)

Police wearing riot gear form a line to contain protesters. (Jeff Roberson, AP)

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St Louis - A weekend of peaceful daytime protests and nightly police standoffs is expected to continue on Sunday as organisers prepare for a wave of resistance they anticipate will lead to widespread, intentional arrests.

Organisers of the four-day Ferguson October summit to protest the August police shooting death of Michael Brown are scheduled to train participants in nonviolent civil disobedience tactics on Sunday morning.

On Monday, a "direct action" led by local and visiting clergy members is planned for Ferguson and other places in and around St Louis. Protest leaders don't plan to release details until shortly ahead of time to avoid tipping off law enforcement.

"We still are knee deep in this situation," said Kareem Jackson, a St Louis rap artist and community organiser. "We have not packed up our bags, we have not gone home. This is not a fly-by-night moment. This is not a made-for-TV revolution. This is real people standing up to a real problem and saying, 'We ain't taking it no more.'"

A crowd that organizers estimated at 3 000 marched through downtown St Louis on Saturday to protest Brown's death and other fatal police shootings of black males in the St Louis area and nationwide. Police reported no arrests or violent incidents as of late Saturday, when the protests fanned out to Ferguson.

But early Sunday morning, several protesters made their way to the south St Louis neighbourhood where another black 18-year-old was killed by a white police officer just days earlier. Protesters occupied a Quicktrip gas station convenience store and staged a sit-in, some sitting outside.

St Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson posted on Twitter that protesters were "attempting to storm" the business. He later posted that protesters were "throwing rocks at the police" and "arrests have been made for continued illegal behaviour." It was not immediately known how many arrests were made or what charges those arrested could face.

Two months after Brown's death sparked an initial wave of violent riots and led Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to summon the National Guard, the highly organised weekend brought many newcomers to St Louis.

The arrivals included Vietnam-era peace activists, New York City seminarians, many college students and hundreds of fast-food workers bused in from Chicago, Nashville and other cities.

The planned events began on Friday afternoon with a march outside the St Louis County prosecutor's office, where protesters renewed calls for prosecutor Bob McCulloch to charge Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson officer, in the death of Brown, who was black. A grand jury is reviewing the case and the Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation.

Dotson said the city had enlisted extra officers and was prepared for trouble, though he hoped for the best.

Tensions simmering

Organisers said beforehand that they expected as many as 6 000 to 10 000 participants for the weekend's events. Police were not able to provide a crowd estimate on Saturday.

Tensions have simmered since Brown's death. Residents were upset about the way his body lay in the street for more than four hours while police investigated the shooting. Many insist Brown was trying to surrender, with his hands up.

Residents also protested the military-style police response to the days of riots and protests that erupted immediately after Brown's shooting in the predominantly black St Louis suburb where just three blacks serve on a 53-officer force.

Since Brown's death, three other fatal police shootings of black males have occurred in the St Louis area. The most recent involved an off-duty St Louis officer who was working for a private neighbourhood security patrol when he shot and killed 18-year-old Vonderrit D Myers on Wednesday night.

The white officer, whose name hasn't been released, fired 17 rounds after police say Myers opened fire. Myers' parents say he was unarmed, and many speakers at the Saturday rally echoed those doubts.

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