Police arrest protesters as Ferguson awaits grand jury decision

Protests to take place ‘regardless’ of jury’s decision on whether to indict the police office who killed Michael Brown

Police confront demonstrators protesting the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown outside the police station on . Brown was killed by Darren Wilson, a Ferguson police officer, on August 9. A grand jury is expected to decide this month if Wilson should be charged in the shooting. Photograph:  Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Police confront demonstrators protesting the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown outside the police station on . Brown was killed by Darren Wilson, a Ferguson police officer, on August 9. A grand jury is expected to decide this month if Wilson should be charged in the shooting. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images.

 

Police arrested five people in Ferguson, Missouri, overnight after they tried to block a street in a protest calling for a grand jury to charge a white police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen in in August.

A few dozen demonstrators, some chanting: “Indict that cop,” gathered outside the Ferguson police station late on Wednesday in sub-freezing temperatures.

They were faced by officers in riot gear. The arrests were the first in about a week.

The grand jury has been meeting for three months to determine whether police officer Darren Wilson broke the law when he shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in an incident that exposed long-simmering racial tensions in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb.

Weeks of sometimes violent protests followed, and local businesses and schools have braced for more unrest, particularly if the grand jury does not charge Wilson. Its decision is expected by month’s end.

One of those detained overnight was David Rodriguez, 26, a former cable company worker from Chicago who said he came to Ferguson three days ago to show solidarity with the protesters.

“They (the police) were going around pretty much looking for anyone they could grab. ... They really weren’t looking for violent guys,” Rodriguez said after being released from jail.

The protesters included people from “Washington, New York, all over,” he said. “We all came here just to show solidarity. ... I’m not going home until this is over with.”

St. Louis County police said the demonstrators refused to disperse and that some then lay in the road. It said five people were arrested, including Rodriguez, three people from Missouri and one from Wisconsin.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard to back up local police, a move some activists criticized as heavy-handed. The Ferguson area has seen few protests over the past week, and all have been peaceful.

Silent Protest

As Nixon spoke at a school in Kansas City on Thursday, about a dozen students stood silently in the back of the auditorium with their hands up, echoing Ferguson protesters who have chanted: “Hands up, don’t shoot” at police.

A school official asked them to sit down. They declined and were led in single file out the back door.

“This has connected with young folks,” Nixon told reporters later, saying he understood the students’ strong emotions.

Police in the St. Louis area have been through conflict de-escalation training since August, and protest leaders have been training people in non-violent civil disobedience techniques.

Activists across the United States planned to stage their own rallies at federal courthouses from New York to Los Angeles.

The National Action Network, a group founded by Al Sharpton, a longtime New York civil rights activist, said demonstrations would occur regardless of the grand jury’s decision, with protesters calling for federal charges against Wilson if he does not face state charges.

Reuters