Disrupting commerce, transit and traffic became focal points for demonstrators across the country days after the announcement that a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri declined to indict the police officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown.
As Small Business Saturday approached, numerous storefronts in the Ferguson area had their windows covered with plywood with messages painted across many of them letting neighbors know that the shops are still open. Demonstrators temporarily shut down three large malls in suburban St. Louis on Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, and then marched in front of the Ferguson police department to protest the grand jury’s decision.
Several stores lowered their security doors or locked entrances as at least 200 protesters sprawled onto the floor while chanting, “Stop shopping and join the movement,” at the Galleria mall in Richmond Heights a few miles south of Ferguson, Missouri, where Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Brown, who was unarmed, in August.
The action prompted authorities to close the mall for about an hour Friday afternoon, while a similar protest of about 50 people had the same effect at West County Mall in nearby Des Peres. And several dozen demonstrators led to a temporary closure of the Chesterfield Mall.
Later Friday night, a group of about 100 protesters marched down West Florissant Avenue Florissant in front of the city’s police and fire departments chanting, blocking traffic and stopping in front of some businesses.
“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, of St. Louis as National Guard trucks and police cruisers roamed the street in front of her. “I served my country for justice for everyone. Not because of what color, what age, what gender or anything,” she said.
Fifteen people were arrested, according to Missouri Department of Public Safety spokesman Mike O’Connell. 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, who is white, wouldn’t be indicted for fatally shooting Brown, who was black, 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 on Friday, protests in Chicago, New York, Seattle and northern California — where protesters chained themselves to trains — were among the largest in the country on Black Friday.
In Oakland, more than a dozen people were arrested after about 125 protesters wearing T-shirts that read “Black Lives Matter” interrupted train service from Oakland to San Francisco, with some chaining themselves to trains. Later in San Francisco, a march by hundreds turned ugly as protesters smashed windows and hurled bottles and other objects at police, leaving two officers injured. Police respond by making arrests but have not said how many. Dozens of people in Seattle blocked streets, and police said some protesters also apparently chained doors shut at the nearby Pacific Place shopping center.
In Chicago, about 200 people gathered near the city’s popular Magnificent Mile shopping district, where Kristiana Colon, 28, called Friday “a day of awareness and engagement.” She’s a member of the Let Us Breathe Collective, which has been taking supplies such as gas masks to protesters in Ferguson.
“We want them to think twice before spending that dollar today,” she said of shoppers. “As long as black lives are put second to materialism, there will be no peace.”
Malcolm London, a leader in the Black Youth Project 100, which has been organizing Chicago protests, said the group was also trying to rally support for other issues, such as more transparency from Chicago police.
“We are not indicting a man. We are indicting a system,” London told the crowd.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Friday announced that he will call a special session of the General Assembly to provide funding for public safety efforts related to protests. A news release from his office said that due to the increased presence of the State Highway Patrol and the Missouri National Guard in the region, the state’s financial obligations for emergency duties are on track to exceed what had been appropriated.
Associated Press writers Jim Salter, David A. Lieb and Alan Scher Zagier in St. Louis, Mae Anderson in New York, Sara Burnett in Chicago and Kristin J. Bender in Oakland, California, contributed to this report.
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