DEMONSTRATORS forced three large shopping centresnear the city of Ferguson to close in protest over the decision not to indict the white police officer who fatally shot a black 18-year-old.
Protesters caused the disruption on Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year. They also converged on the Ferguson police department.
The Missouri city has been struck with numerous, sometimes violent demonstrations in the past week following a grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of black unarmed teenager Michael Brown in August.
Several stores lowered their security doors or shut their entrances as at least 200 protesters chanted, “Stop shopping and join the movement,” at the Galleria shopping centre in Richmond Heights a few miles south of Ferguson.
Authorities closed Galleria for around 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. Several dozen more demonstrators prompted a temporary closure of the Chesterfield Mall.
Later on Friday night, a group of about 100 protesters marched down to the front of the city’s police and fire departments chanting and blocking traffic.
“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, from the nearby city of St Louis.
“I served my country for justice for everyone. Not because of what colour, what age, what gender or anything.”
St Louis resident Cbabi Bayoc brought his three children to take part in the protest. “I brought my kids to show them what peaceful protest and engagement looks like,” he said.
Fifteen people were arrested, according to a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Public Safety.
He said charges would include peace disturbance and impeding the flow of traffic, and two people would be charged with resisting arrest and one with assault.
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. 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, protests in Chicago, New York, Seattle and northern California were among the largest in the US on Black Friday.
In the Californian city of Oakland, more than a dozen people were arrested after about 125 protesters wearing T-shirts that read “Black Lives Matter” interrupted the rail service from Oakland to San Francisco, with some chaining themselves to trains. Dozens of people in Seattle blocked streets and targeted a shopping centre.
In Chicago, about 200 people gathered near the city’s Magnificent Mile shopping district, where Kristiana Colon, 28, called Friday “a day of awareness and engagement”.
Missouri governor Jay Nixon announced on Friday that he will call a special session of the General Assembly to provide funding for public safety efforts related to protests.