FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Hundreds gathered in downtown St. Louis on Saturday morning for a second day of organized rallies to protest Michael Brown’s death and other fatal police shootings in the area and elsewhere.
Saturday’s crowd appeared larger than the ones seen at Friday’s protests, and while the main focus of the march that’s scheduled to wind through downtown streets for several hours is on recent police shootings, participants embraced other causes such as gay rights and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Police officers were stationed around the area.
The four-day event called Ferguson October began Friday afternoon with a march outside the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office in Clayton and renewed calls for prosecutor Bob McCulloch to charge Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson officer, in the Aug. 9 death of 18-year-old Brown, who was black and unarmed. A grand jury is reviewing the case.
The demonstrations moved to Ferguson on Friday night as protesters stood inches from officers in riot gear before demonstrators disbursed. Many then went to the site of a police shooting in St. Louis, where another demonstration is planned Saturday.
Many newcomers from across the country joined local residents overnight.
“It’s important for this country to stand with this community,” said protester Ellen Davidson of New York City, a community college administrator who was making her second trip to the area since Brown’s death more than two months ago. “This community is under siege. … The eyes of the world are watching.”
Saturday morning’s protest is before the St. Louis Cardinals host the San Francisco Giants in the first game of the National League Championship Series at 7 p.m. And on Monday, a series of planned — but unannounced — acts of civil disobedience are to take place throughout the region.
“I’m not planning to get arrested,” said Davidson, who accompanied about 15 other members of Veterans for Peace from Illinois, Minnesota, New York and Tennessee. “But I do plan to do what I believe are in my rights as a protester. If I get arrested, that’s on the people who arrest me.”
Organizers said before the weekend that they expected 6,000 to 10,000 participants, but Friday’s protest outside the county courthouse, which took place in a cold and steady rain, didn’t draw nearly that amount. Later, tensions increased in Ferguson, with hundreds of protesters gathering outside the Ferguson Police Department and chanting anti-police remarks such as, “Killer cops, KKK, how many kids did you kill today?” as a wall of about 100 officers in riot gear stood impassively.
In Clayton, officers escorted the several hundred demonstrators through the suburb’s downtown as they marched past high-end restaurants, jewelry stores, banks and law offices.
“We are here to demand the justice that our people have died for,” chanted protest organizer Montague Simmons of the local group Organization for Black Struggle. “We are here to bring peace, to bring restoration, to lift our banners in the name of those who’ve been sacrificed.”
Meanwhile, the St. Louis Police Department announced it had encrypted its radio communications system, saying tactical information relayed to officers had been compromised during recent events, putting officers and the public at risk.
The protests early Saturday morning took place on St. Louis’ south side, where on Wednesday night a white police officer shot and killed another black 18-year-old. Police say Vonderrit D. Myers shot at the officer; Myers’ parents say he was unarmed.
The name of the officer, who was in uniform but working off-duty for a private neighborhood security patrol, hasn’t been released. Black leaders in St. Louis want the Justice Department to investigate Myers’ shooting as well. Police said the officer fired 17 rounds after Myers shot at him; preliminary autopsy results show a shot to the head killed Myers.
Associated Press journalists Jim Salter and Jeff Roberson in St. Louis contributed to this report.
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