FERGUSON Mo (Reuters) – The mother of an unarmed black teenager shot dead by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri, walked with hundreds of protesters on Saturday in the St. Louis suburb, part of a weekend of protests against police violence.
Earlier in the day, thousands of people marched in St. Louis, as the protest movement took on more urgency days after a fatal shooting of a teenager by an off-duty police officer in that city.
In Ferguson, Lesley McSpadden, whose son Michael Brown died in the Aug. 9 shooting, walked at the front of a group of more than 300 demonstrators.
The crowd started its march by gathering at the makeshift memorial made of stuffed animals piled up in the street where Brown was shot. Demonstrators chanted “Mike Brown means we got to fight back.” No police officers could be seen near the protest as it got under way.
Earlier, in St. Louis, thousands of protesters marched through the city’s downtown and rallied at Keiner Plaza. Organizers included Hands Up Unite, an activist group that emerged after the 18-year-old Brown’s death.
Civil rights organizations and protest groups have invited people from around the country to join vigils and marches in the St. Louis area from Friday to Monday.
Tory Russell, one of the founders of Hands Up United, vowed to keep up the pressure on police to change how they deal with young black men. He said he expected the grass-roots movement that sprang from the Ferguson shooting to pick up momentum.
“This isn’t going to stop until there is change with police and black youth,” said Russell on the sidelines of the rally.
The weekend got off to a tense but peaceful start on Friday night, a break from the clashes with police that have erupted in the area in recent days. Police said there had been no arrests, injuries or damage from the night’s protests.
Under partly cloudy autumn sky, the Saturday afternoon rally was joined by union members, gay rights activists and people from the Occupy movement.
On Friday afternoon, hundreds marched through the rain to the St. Louis County courthouse in Clayton, adjacent to St. Louis. Protesters have called for the arrest and prosecution of Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot Brown. A grand jury is considering evidence in the case.
Early Saturday morning, many protesters moved to the St. Louis neighborhood of Shaw. There, on Wednesday, an off-duty white officer working for a security firm shot dead 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr. in what police have described as a firefight.
And on Saturday night, more than 30 demonstrators against police violence gathered outside Busch Stadium, where the St. Louis Cardinals were taking on the San Francisco Giants in the first game of baseball’s National League Championship Series.
(Reporting by Kenny Bahr and Fiona Ortiz in Ferguson, Missouri; Writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis)