Clergy held a prayer meeting at Shaw Park in Clayton early this morning before leading demonstrators in a peaceful march through that city's downtown area to protest a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer in the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.
"Our goal is to disrupt space, not go to jail," said Rev. David Gerth, executive director of Metropolitan Congregations United.
Clergy members said another goal was to keep the police from harming other protesters.
The demonstrators, at first numbering around 40, peacefully marched north on Brentwood, then went east on Maryland before going south on Meramec. During this time, police were rerouting traffic around the march and quietly staying at a distance.
At Meramec and Forsyth boulevards, the protesters, whose group swelled to around around 140 people, marched in a circle around the intersection, chanting "Show me what theology looks like. This is what Theology looks like" and "No justice. No peace. No racist police."
The demonstration was peaceful but authorities kept a National Guard armored vehicle out of sight nearby.
Shortly after 7:30 a.m., the organizers called for a 4.5 minutes of silence for Michael Brown, each minute representing the hour that his body laid in the street after being shot. The crowd went silent.
At 7:50 a.m., the crowd linked arms and went down Forsyth. Some held signs that read, "Praying with our feet" and "Black lives matter."
Another group of protesters, coming from south of Clayton, merged with the clergy-led group, raising the number of marchers to more than 200, Clayton officials estimated.
Sharon Orlet, 64, a hospital chaplain and pastoral counselor in Manchester, came with five other clergy friends.
Her goal was "raising consciousness of white people" about racism. She believes Michael Brown would not have been shot if he had been white.
"We need the police to stop killing our black children," Orlet added.
The Clayton protest stands in stark contrast to the violence that Ferguson experienced Monday night.
"I was saddened by the unrest, but while I was saddened by it, we certainly understand it," said Rev. Clinton Stancil, senior pastor at Wayman AME church in St. Louis, who was among the Clayton marchers. "You can't keep oppressing people for so long. You saw the results of oppression."
Just after 8:30 a.m., the marchers stopped near the intersection of Carondelet and Central and laid down briefly in protest, before resuming their march.
After about 15 minutes, the march began to wind down, as the clergy leaders left to go attend a rally at Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis, planned for about noon.
Organizers also called on the marchers to stay involved in other actions planned in the coming days.
The rest of the downtown was quiet as many businesses had closed and some parking lots were empty. At Clayton High School, the Center of Clayton health club remained closed for a second day. A phone message said management would decide on a day-to-day basis when to reopen.
At Enterprise, the car rental giant, employees plan to come to work today at its Clayton headquarters, but it will be a late start time of 10 a.m., according to Enterprise spokeswoman said.
However, Centene headquarters offices will be closed as well as those of other firms located in the Centene Plaza building.
Nonprofit health care system Ascension also closed its Clayton offices, where about 150 work, as well as its headquarters offices in Edmundson.
Lilly Fowler, Jacob Barkers, Tim Barker, and Michael D. Sorkin of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.