Peaceful daytime protests and nightly police standoffs are expected to continue, as organisers of the four-day Ferguson October summit to protest against the police’s fatal shooting of black teenager Michael Brown prepared for a wave of resistance they anticipate will lead to arrests.
Organisers were yesterday scheduled to train participants in non-violent civil disobedience tactics. Today, a “direct action” led by local and visiting clergy members is planned for Ferguson and other places in and around St Louis.
Community organiser Kareem Jackson said: “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 organisers estimated at 3,000 marched through downtown St Louis on Saturday to protest Brown’s death and other fatal police shootings of black males nationwide.
Police reported no arrests on Saturday night when the protests fanned out to Ferguson. But early yesterday morning several protesters made their way to the south St Louis neighbourhood where another black teenager – 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jnr – was killed by a white police officer just days earlier. Protesters occupied a Quicktrip petrol station convenience store and staged a sit-in.
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 behavior.”
Two months after Brown’s death sparked a wave of riots which led Missouri governor Jay Nixon to summon the National Guard, this weekend’s highly organised event brought many newcomers to St Louis, including Vietnam-era peace activists, New York City seminarians, college students and 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. A grand jury is reviewing the case and the Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation.
Police chief Dotson said the city had enlisted extra officers and was prepared for trouble.Organisers said they expected up to 10,000 participants for the weekend’s events. Tensions have simmered since Brown’s death. Residents were upset about the fact that 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 riots and protests that erupted after Brown’s shooting in the predominantly black suburb, where just three black officers serve on a 53-strong force.
Since Brown’s death, three other fatal police shootings of black males have occurred in the St Louis area, including that of Mr Myers on Wednesday night by an off-duty officer working for a private security patrol.
The white officer, whose name has not been released, fired 17 rounds after police say Mr Myers opened fire.
Mr Myers’ parents say he was unarmed and carrying a sandwich.