Weekend protests in the St. Louis area against police violence have made a tense but peaceful start, with none of the clashes with police that have affected Missouri in recent weeks.
Civil rights organizations and protest groups invited people from around the country to join vigils and marches from Friday to Monday over the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.
A march is planned for Saturday morning through downtown St. Louis, with discussions about race and teach-ins about how to interact with police officers set to follow, according to organizing groups like Hands Up United.
The weekend’s demonstrations kicked off on Friday afternoon with hundreds peacefully marching through the rain to the St. Louis County courthouse in Clayton, adjacent to St. Louis. Protesters have called for the arrest and prosecution of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot the unarmed Brown, as a grand jury weighs whether he should be charged in the killing.
Some 300 people later assembled outside the nearby Ferguson Police Department, chanting phrases like “Who are we? Mike Brown!” and “Indict. Convict. Send those killer cops to jail. The whole damn system is guilty as hell!” just inches away from dozens of officers clad in riot gear.
Into early Saturday morning, many protesters moved to the St. Louis neighborhood of Shaw, where 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr. was shot dead by an off-duty white officer working for a private security firm in what police described as a firefight on Wednesday.
While the atmosphere was at times tense, there were none of the clashes with police that have marked protests in the St. Louis area in the wake of Brown’s killing. Police said as of early Saturday there had been no arrests, injuries or damage from the night’s protests.
Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said law enforcement authorities in the area are planning for large crowds and possible violence, particularly given the killing of Myers on Wednesday. Police arrested eight people during chaotic protests that followed that killing on Thursday night.
(Reporting by Kenny Bahr in Ferguson, Missouri and Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Stephen Powell)