Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Protesters Gather in Vigil Marking Ferguson Anniversary
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

FERGUSON, Mo. - Protesters took to the streets here on Tuesday night in a scene reminiscent of those a year earlier after the St. Louis County prosecutor announced that a grand jury had decided a Ferguson officer would not face charges in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

The same "Season's Greetings" sign stretched across the street near the Ferguson Police Department where the crowd gathered.

But the crowd was smaller than the one that piled onto the streets last year after the decision not to bring charges against Officer Darren Wilson sparked a night of rage that led to sometimes-violent clashes, at least 25 fires and several arrests.

The protesters on Tuesday night carried signs, some with the now-familiar "Black Lives Matter" slogan, chanted and beat drums as they stood in front of the police station and at times formed a human barricade to block traffic on South Florissant Road.

At one point, the group of about 100 stood on the steps of the Ferguson police department, holding candles and staying silent for 41/2 minutes for Brown, whose body was left on the ground for 41/2 hours after his shooting Aug. 9, 2014, enraging his relatives and others. Police have said the body wasn't removed until their investigation was done, but critics have cited the delay in removing Brown's body as evidence of a callous police attitude toward blacks.

"This is not just for Michael Brown," Kayla Reed, a protest organizer with the Organization for Black Struggle, told the group gathered Tuesday night. "This is for all those who have died at police hands. We don't do this because we hate police. We do this because we love each other."

Noticeably absent from the streets was the strong show of police force that had greeted protesters last year. Police were not even visible, though earlier in the evening cars from a private security company were parked near the police station.

Business owners said police had visited them earlier in the evening and asked them to turn off their Wi-Fi before they closed, presumably so protesters wouldn't use it after hours.

The anniversary of the grand jury's decision in the Brown case came on the same day that a white Chicago police officer was charged with murder for shooting a black teenager and as protesters marched in Minneapolis streets after five people in a Black Lives Matter encampment were shot on Monday.

Charles Muhammed passed out fliers calling for a national shopping boycott during the holiday shopping seasons, to show the effect of no minority money in the consumer stream.

"We're still not receiving any justice," he explained. "We are channeling the frustration into a peaceful demonstration and we are going to continue collective efforts to make the needed changes."

Protesters blocked South Florissant Road on and off, but traffic generally got through. Sometimes drivers turned around, including one woman who got into a shouting match with the protesters.

About 8 p.m., a car plowed through the group, driving partially on the sidewalk. One person was bumped, but nobody was hurt.

Among the protesters were clergy members wearing orange vests, who were diverting traffic away.

Within two hours after its 7 p.m. start, the protest had dwindled to about 20 people.

Alicia Street was among the early protesters.

"I love that people are out here, but I wish there were more people out here to stand their ground because our fight is not over," Street said.

She said that she hadn't seen any change in the Ferguson police department and that the mayor still needed to be held accountable for the way he has led the city.

She added: "We still have a man named Darren Wilson out free."

(Doug Moore, Stephen Deere, Steve Giegerich and Valerie Schremp Hahn contributed to this report.

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