By Alan Scher Zagier, AP
FERGUSON, Missouri–Hundreds of demonstrators stood within touching distance from officers in riot gear late Friday at the start of what was expected to be a weekend of protests over the 2-month-old death of Michael Brown and other fatal police shootings that activists say are racially motivated.
Organizers of the four-day Ferguson October events expected 6,000 participants. The initial protest Friday outside a St. Louis County prosecutor’s office didn’t draw nearly that amount. Later, tensions increased, with protesters outside the Ferguson Police Department chanting anti-police remarks such as, “How many kids did you kill today?”
A wall of 50 officers in riot gear stood near them. The St. Louis County Police Department announced that it would arrest anyone who touched an officer.
Protesters renewed their call for prosecutor Bob McCulloch to charge Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson officer, in the Aug. 9 death of 18-year-old Brown, who was black and unarmed. A grand jury is reviewing the case, and the U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into Brown’s death and a broader inquiry into the Ferguson police force.
“We are here to demand the justice that our people have died for,” chanted protest organizer Montague Simmons of the local group Organization for Black Struggle. “We are here to bring peace, to bring restoration, to lift our banners in the name of those who’ve been sacrificed.”
Police in Clayton reported no arrests, and officers escorted the several hundred demonstrators as they marched. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Police Department said it had encrypted its radio communications system because tactical information relayed to officers had been compromised during recent situations, putting officers and the public at risk.