Clashes Erupt in Second Night of Protests Over St. Louis Police Shooting
As 'Ferguson October' approaches, tensions run high over continued police violence
Protests over a police shooting in St. Louis, Missouri continued for a second night on Thursday and into Friday morning as hundreds of people gathered in the city where a white off-duty officer killed a black teenager earlier this week.
As many as 400 demonstrators came together throughout the night in the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis. Police dressed in riot gear reportedly rushed lines of protesters, who held banners with the words "Black Lives Matter" and chanted, "No justice, no peace!" and "Hands up, don't shoot!" Other officers pepper-sprayed protesters who did not disperse. Eight arrests were made, according to St. Louis police spokeswoman Schron Jackson.
Details about the shooting remain unclear. Police claimed the young man, VonDerrit Myers, shot three times at the officer, who was off-duty and moonlighting for a security company at the time. The officer, who was unhurt, reportedly returned fire 17 times, with six or eight bullets hitting Myers. Witnesses and family members countered the police version of events by claiming that Myers did not have a gun—only a sandwich. Police have yet to release the officer's name.
St. Louis medical examiner Dr. Michael Graham said the fatal shot struck Myers in the right cheek.
Several black leaders from the area held a news conference Thursday outside police headquarters and called on the Justice Department to investigate the shooting. "This here was racial profiling turned deadly," state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D) said. "It's imperative that we began to heal this community. This community has been broken down. We have too many deaths at the hands of police officers."
Tensions between police and residents had been running high since the summer over the death of Michael Brown, who was killed in similar circumstances on August 9, when the unarmed black teenager was shot to death by a white officer in nearby Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb. His death led to months of protests, both impromptu and organized, and an impending "weekend of action" called Ferguson October organized by grassroots activists to fight against police racism and brutality is scheduled to start Friday night.
While only peaceful demonstrations are planned, organizers said, the outcome would be hard to predict.
"We never advocate violence ... But I do know that people were angry last night and they will be out this weekend," activist Tory Russell of Hands Up United told Reuters. "I don't know what they are going to do."
Some protesters in St. Louis burned an American flag on Thursday night, with one activist telling USA Today, "It's not our flag. Our children are being killed in the street. This flag doesn't cover black or brown people... There are Michael Browns everywhere."
News of the protests spread quickly on social media Thursday night. Twitter users created the hashtag #ShawShooting to share news and information about the protests and Myers himself, posting pictures of the young man in happier times with family members and friends.