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Weekend of protests under way in St. Louis after new shooting

Reuters , Saturday 11 Oct 2014
A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest in Ferguson, Missouri early October 11, 2014. (Photo:Reuters)
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Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Ferguson, Missouri police station late Friday, kicking off a planned weekend of demonstrations against police violence after eight people were arrested in chaotic protests the previous night.

"My hands on my head. Please don't shoot me dead" and "Who shuts it down? We shut it down!" a crowd of roughly 300 people chanted as they stood just inches from a row of dozens of officers, most clad in riot gear.

Demonstrators also marched a casket covered in mirrors to the station from a nearby memorial to victims of police violence on Friday night, and stood it in front of the line of officers.

While the atmosphere was at times tense, there were none of the clashes with police that have marked protests in the St. Louis area since a white police officer shot dead an unarmed black teenager in August.

Violence broke out again this week after another black teenager was shot dead by an off-duty police officer on Wednesday.

Civil rights organizations and protest groups have invited people from around the country to join vigils and marches from Friday to Monday over the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, 18, in the St. Louis suburb.

Brown's parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., on Friday asked for the protests to be peaceful.

"We understand first-hand the powerless frustration felt by people of all walks of life regarding their interactions with law enforcement," they said in a statement. "We ask that those coming to show support for our son do so within the law."

Earlier on Friday, hundreds of protesters peacefully marched for 90 minutes through the rain to the St. Louis County courthouse in Clayton, adjacent to St. Louis. Dozens of demonstrators later attended a candlelight vigil and held a moment of silence for Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson.

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said authorities are planning for large crowds and possible violence.

Groups such as Hands Up United have organized candlelight vigils, presentations from motivational speakers, free yoga classes and teach-ins about how to interact with police officers during stops.

"Local police departments have gassed us, beat us and shot us with rubber bullets, but they cannot stop our march for justice," Tef Poe, a local rapper and organizer with Hands Up United, said in a statement.

Protesters are calling for the arrest and prosecution of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot Brown.

A grand jury has been weighing the evidence to decide whether Wilson should be charged. Brown's killing in a mostly black town with a mostly white government leadership set off a national uproar over police accountability and race relations.

Wednesday's shooting of Vonderrit Myers Jr., 18, by an off-duty white officer working for a private security firm in what police say was a firefight about 10 miles (16 km) from Ferguson in south St. Louis put the area on edge again.

Police arrested eight people during protests on Thursday night when hundreds of demonstrators shouted and chanted at rows of police clad in riot gear in south St. Louis.

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