By Alan Scher Zagier And Jim Salter
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FERGUSON, Mo. _ Nearly 50 people were arrested Monday during a large rally in the Missouri city where protesters have been unremitting since an unarmed 18-year-old black man was fatally shot by a police officer.
Clergy members led several hundred people on a march, using a bullhorn to read the names of people killed by police across the U.S, marking the third straight day of recent protests in the St. Louis suburb where Michael Brown was fatally shot Aug. 9 by a white police officer. Tensions escalated last week when a white police officer in St. Louis shot and killed 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr., who police say shot at police before he was killed.
Ferguson Police spokesman Tim Zoll said about 42 people were arrested at the Ferguson Police Station. Six others were later arrested for failing to disperse after blocking a street.
Protesters also blocked the entrance to a major employer, held a loud rally inside St. Louis City Hall, disrupted business at a Ferguson shopping centre and a Wal-Mart and tried to crash a private fundraiser for a St. Louis County executive candidate where Sen. Claire McCaskill was scheduled to appear.
Among those arrested on a charge of disturbing the peace was scholar and civil rights activist Cornel West, police said. The former Princeton University professor has been in the St. Louis area for a weekend of protests, speeches and workshops designed to call attention to anger over police treatment of minorities.
Pounding rain and tornado watches didn’t deter the protesters who stayed outside the headquarters for nearly than four hours, roughly the same amount of time that Brown’s body was left in the street after he was shot. The protesters were met by about 40 officers in riot gear.
“My faith compels me to be here,” said Bishop Wayne Smith of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. “I want to show solidarity, and call attention to the structural racism of St. Louis.”
The planned demonstrations began 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, the officer who shot Brown. A grand jury is reviewing the case and the U.S. Justice Department is conducting a civil rights investigation.
Since Brown’s death, three other fatal police shootings of black males have occurred in the St. Louis area. Myers died Wednesday after a confrontation with a white St. Louis officer, whose name has not been released. Police said the officer fired 17 rounds after Myers opened fire. Myers’ parents say he was unarmed, and many speakers at a weekend rally echoed those doubts and raised concerns about racial profiling.
Several clergy members approached individual Ferguson officers and asked them to “repent” for Brown’s killing and other acts of violence. Some officers engaged the protesters, while others ignored the efforts.
“My heart feels that this has been going on too long,” Ferguson officer Ray Nabzdyk told the clergy. “We all stand in fault because we didn’t address this.”