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Police Confront Protesters in St. Louis After Sit-In

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Police Confront Protesters in St. Louis After Sit-In

Police confronted protesters in St. Louis early today after demonstrators staged a sit-in at a gasoline station, fueling tensions after a day of peaceful rallies.

About 100 demonstrators marched to a station on the corner of South Vandeventer and Papin Street on the south side of the city. About 50 protesters sat in front of the store as police in riot gear tapped batons on the ground and urged them to disperse. When the demonstrators disobeyed the repeated order, officers used pepper spray and moved in.

“Protesters now throwing rocks at the police,” St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson, who was with officers at the fueling station, said in a Twitter posting shortly after 2 a.m. local time. “Arrests have been made for continued illegal behavior.”

The unrest followed a series of non-violent demonstrations yesterday. More than 1,000 protesters marched peacefully through downtown St. Louis, demanding justice for fatal police shootings including the killing of an unarmed teenager in suburban Ferguson two months ago. The march was part of a planned weekend of demonstrations over police violence against minorities. Organizers call it A Weekend of Resistance.

Prosecutors are still reviewing the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white policeman. The shooting touched off days of clashes with authorities and prompted the intervention of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the case and a grand jury is deciding whether to indict the officer, Darren Wilson.

Protesters Arrested

Police arrested 17 protesters for unlawful assembly at the gas station parking lot last night, said Schron Jackson, spokeswoman for metropolitan department. There were no reports of injuries or property damage, she said.

“I just can’t believe they treat people like this,” Malissa McLaurin, 37, who lives about six blocks from the gasoline station, said while watching the standoff with police. “These are people with nothing, no weapons or anything.”

Yesterday, demonstrators, including McLaurin, walked about a mile toward the city’s iconic Gateway Arch as police cars blocked off traffic. The diverse crowd included members of labor groups, clergy, fast-food workers and community activists. Many carried signs while yelling “no justice, no peace.”

The almost three-hour event took place less than a 10-minute walk from Busch Stadium, where Major League Baseball’s National League championship series began yesterday, with the St. Louis Cardinals hosting the San Francisco Giants.

Hundreds March

“The young people here, particularly African-American men, feel the police are targeting them, simply because they are black young men,” said Eugene Gillis, 56, a pastor in St. Louis County who also works at General Motors Co., after marching through downtown playing songs like “We Shall Overcome” on his trumpet. “That’s what’s driving this. Black men feel victimized by the power, the police system and the court system.”

Before protesters headed to the fueling station in St. Louis, hundreds marched to the Ferguson Police Department for the second straight night. Brown’s mother walked with protesters who demanded the indictment of Wilson. A representative of the Brown family called on demonstrators to stay peaceful.

St. Louis County Police didn’t arrest any protesters yesterday. There were a few instances of “assaultive behavior,” said Brian Schellman, spokesman for the department. Officers had rocks and bottles thrown at them, and some were spit at during protests near the Ferguson police department, Schellman said in an e-mail. None of those officers were injured, and no property damage was reported, he said.

Pressuring Prosecutor

Wilson, a 28-year-old police officer, shot the unarmed Brown at least six times, according to an independent autopsy released by the victim’s family. Police said Brown attacked Wilson, while some residents said Brown was shot after raising his hands in surrender.

Protesters have said St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch should recuse himself from the investigation because his own father, a policeman, was killed in a shooting more than 50 years ago.

“This weekend is not about a party,” Montague Simmons, chair of the Organization for Black Struggle, shouted into a bullhorn as the crowd repeated his words at a rally on Oct. 9 outside McCulloch’s office. “This weekend is about our transformation.”

Second Shooting

The marches are taking place in the shadow of another black teen’s shooting by a white policeman on Oct. 8, when 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers was killed by an off-duty St. Louis officer.

Police said Myers ran from the officer who was working a second job as a security guard. Myers shot at the officer, police said, and the policeman returned fire.

Myers’s mother, Syreeta Myers, told the Associated Press that her son had been holding a sandwich, not a gun. Police said they found a 9mm pistol at the scene.

Protesters marched through the streets blocking traffic, beating a bass drum and chanting, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!”

Eight people were arrested as St. Louis police faced off with about 200 protesters the night after the Myers killing. They burned two American flags in a residential neighborhood, smashed a police-car window and broke the glass front door of one business.

(Adds number of arrests in 6th paragraph.)