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Missouri police shooting draws protesters from near, far

  • FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 file photo, protesters march down the middle of a street in front of a convenience store in Ferguson, Mo. that was looted and burned following the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer on Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. Demonstrators are demanding justice for the 18-year-old Brown, which they say can only be accomplished if Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson is charged and convicted for the shooting. Many also cite larger causes. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

    FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 file photo, protesters march down the middle of a street in front of a convenience store in Ferguson, Mo. that was looted and burned following the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer on Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. Demonstrators are demanding justice for the 18-year-old Brown, which they say can only be accomplished if Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson is charged and convicted for the shooting. Many also cite larger causes. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 file photo, a man holds a sign in front of a group of police officers to protest the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer a week earlier in Ferguson, Mo. Demonstrators are demanding justice for 18-year-old Brown, which they say can only be accomplished if Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson is charged and convicted for the shooting. Many also cite larger causes. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

    FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 file photo, a man holds a sign in front of a group of police officers to protest the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer a week earlier in Ferguson, Mo. Demonstrators are demanding justice for 18-year-old Brown, which they say can only be accomplished if Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson is charged and convicted for the shooting. Many also cite larger causes. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • In this Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014 photo, rap musician Stackz sits on his white Corvette as he joins protesters in Ferguson, Mo. Though he now lives in Atlanta, he grew up in the neighborhood. "This happened right in my area. It was a must to be here," said Stackz, who said his real name was Demarco Williams. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

    In this Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014 photo, rap musician Stackz sits on his white Corvette as he joins protesters in Ferguson, Mo. Though he now lives in Atlanta, he grew up in the neighborhood. "This happened right in my area. It was a must to be here," said Stackz, who said his real name was Demarco Williams. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

  • FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 file photo, protesters march down the middle of a street in front of a convenience store in Ferguson, Mo. that was looted and burned following the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer on Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. Demonstrators are demanding justice for the 18-year-old Brown, which they say can only be accomplished if Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson is charged and convicted for the shooting. Many also cite larger causes. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

    FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 file photo, protesters march down the middle of a street in front of a convenience store in Ferguson, Mo. that was looted and burned following the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer on Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. Demonstrators are demanding justice for the 18-year-old Brown, which they say can only be accomplished if Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson is charged and convicted for the shooting. Many also cite larger causes. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  • FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 file photo, protesters march down the middle of a street in front of a convenience store in Ferguson, Mo. that was looted and burned following the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer on Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. Demonstrators are demanding justice for the 18-year-old Brown, which they say can only be accomplished if Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson is charged and convicted for the shooting. Many also cite larger causes. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 file photo, a man holds a sign in front of a group of police officers to protest the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer a week earlier in Ferguson, Mo. Demonstrators are demanding justice for 18-year-old Brown, which they say can only be accomplished if Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson is charged and convicted for the shooting. Many also cite larger causes. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • In this Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014 photo, rap musician Stackz sits on his white Corvette as he joins protesters in Ferguson, Mo. Though he now lives in Atlanta, he grew up in the neighborhood. "This happened right in my area. It was a must to be here," said Stackz, who said his real name was Demarco Williams. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
  • FILE - In this Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 file photo, protesters march down the middle of a street in front of a convenience store in Ferguson, Mo. that was looted and burned following the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer on Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. Demonstrators are demanding justice for the 18-year-old Brown, which they say can only be accomplished if Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson is charged and convicted for the shooting. Many also cite larger causes. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Protesters who have for days lined a busy suburban St. Louis street not far from the place where a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager have walked from nearby apartments, driven from neighboring communities and flown in from states hundreds of miles away. Some are young parents carrying infants. Others, college students. Retirees. Professionals taking a break from their jobs.

They have chanted, marched, shouted, danced on vehicles and – though most have remained peaceful – also looted and vandalized stores during late-night clashes with armored police officers who have fired smoke canisters and tear gas into the crowds.

The demonstrators are demanding justice for 18-year-old Michael Brown, which they say can only be accomplished if Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson is charged and convicted for the shooting. Many also cite larger causes.

Some vent frustration about what they describe as a pattern of harassment and intimidation of black residents by the police – not just in Ferguson, but in numerous other predominantly low-income minority communities. Others see an opportunity to participate in what they consider a modern civil rights movement.

“Being black in America is basically being born with a target,” said Keyon Watkins, a 26-year-old college graduate with a computer science degree who joined in the protests on a late weekend night. “All of this is just built-up, pent-up aggression by being mistreated on a daily basis.”

As Watkins stood on the curb of West Florissant Avenue, a parade of vehicles slowly passed by – some with teenagers dancing atop the hoods, some blaring music profaning the police, many honking their horns in what has become a sounding call for the protest.

On another night, the rap musician Stackz drove up in a new white Corvette, parked it in the street and joined in the protest. Though he now lives in Atlanta, he grew up in the neighborhood.

“This happened right in my area. It was a must to be here,” said Stackz, who said his real name is Demarco Williams.

The police said Brown had been walking with a friend down nearby Canfield Drive when Wilson stopped them because they were in the middle of the street. They said a scuffle ensued, Wilson was injured and Brown was shot. Witnesses said the teenager had his hands in the air as Wilson fired multiple rounds.

So the protesters chant “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” while raising their own arms. They write the words on posters and print them on T-shirts.

Some of the protesters said they previously had been shot by the police, or know relatives and friends who had been. Michael Johnson, 42, lifted up his shirt to show the scars on his torso that he said he received when he was shot by a St. Louis police officer at age 18, during a confrontation that he said never resulted in charges against him or the officer. Because of the injuries, he said, he had to abandon his dream of joining the Marines.

“That one night cost me my whole future,” said Johnson, standing in front of a looted and burnt-out convenience store. “If I got to die tonight, I don’t mind. . . . I’m dying for a cause.”

There have been no reports of protesters dying in their clashes with the police.

After several tumultuous nights, the police tried to change their tactics. Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson took command of security from local authorities and walked the streets side-by-side with the protesters. So did celebrity civil rights activists, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who had marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The festive atmosphere lasted only one night, and protests again turned violent during the weekend, prompting Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to declare a state of emergency and impose a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew in Ferguson. Some who defied the curfew clashed again with the police early yesterday, but Johnson again encouraged peaceful demonstrations for the nights to come.

LaVon Stennis-Williams flew in from Omaha, Neb., to join the protest with her daughter who is attending law school at Saint Louis University. Stennis-Williams, 52, wanted to experience the civil rights movement that she had heard about as a child in the 1960s.

“I felt like it was an obligation to come here and be a part of this,” she said. “Maybe this will be a catalyst of change in this country to get people to become more tolerant and more respectful of their civil rights.”

Legacy Comments2

"Witnesses said the teenager had his hands in the air as Wilson fired multiple rounds. "....Only one "witness" has said this to my knowledge...his buddy. All the other witnesses said Brown was running at the cop. But facts dont matter to these folks, just like they didnt in the Zimmerman case.

I think the wrong people are protesting here...the store owners should be protesting. A guy comes in, robs your store, grabs you by the throat, pushes you around, and is too afraid to call the cops for fear of being killed.

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