ST. LOUIS • About 350 protesters blocked the elevated interstate lanes near the Edward Jones Dome after 2 p.m. today as the climax of a winding march through downtown.
They entered the interstate from the southbound exit ramp to the dome and Laclede's Landing just after 2 p.m. The interstate there was formerly Interstate 70 but was renamed Interstate 44 southeast of the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge.
Police closed the interstate in both directions.
Shortly before 2:30 p.m., the protesters began heading back down the ramp toward Broadway, with a line of about two dozen city police with night sticks following closely behind.
Police reopened the interstate by 2:40 p.m. Four protesters were arrested suspected of failure to disperse.
The protesters also briefly closed the traffic lanes of the Martin Luther King Bridge to East St. Louis. After the interstate closing, the crowd appeared to disperse through downtown.
The highway closings followed a march through downtown that began at Kiener Plaza, went to the federal courthouse and then headed back past the Old Courthouse to the interstate ramps at the dome.
Police vehicles followed their march from a distance until lead elements of the protesters dashed up the exit ramp onto the highway.
Earlier, at the federal courthouse, where they pushed through an outer line of barricades but stopped at the top of the steps, face to face with a line of officers.
At the courthouse, at 10th and Walnut streets, protesters chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, racist cops have got to go” — a frequently used slogan during the months of protests since Michael Brown was killed Aug. 9 by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
Arnita West of Ferguson held up a sign showing Wilson's face with the words, “Wanted for racist murder.” West said the photo showed that Wilson didn't suffer any serious injury during his encounter with Brown.
“I want people to know that the system failed,” she said.
The downtown march began at Kiener Plaza with sunshine but a nippy temperature of 37. Protesters circled the nearby Wainright State Office Building and then headed five blocks toward the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse, where there were two lines of metal barricades. They pushed through the first line along the sidewalk, climbed the wide staircase and then stopped before a second line in front of the building's main entrance. Officers, some wearing Department of Homeland Security coats, stood behind the second line.
They also sat on the steps for 4 1/2 minutes to symbolize the more than four hours when Brown's body lay on Canfield Drive. There were no arrests.
The group then marched east past Ballpark Village to the Old Courthouse at Fourth and Chestnut streets.
The protest was organized by several local activist groups, including the Don’t Shoot Coalition, Hands Up United and the Organization for Black Struggle. Some clergy members also took part and wore orange vests.
Earlier Tuesday, Metropolitan Congregations United had held a march in downtown Clayton.
Outside the federal courthouse downtown, Fred and Odile Tompkins explained why they took part.
“We feel the police department is being held above the law and not being accountable to the law,” Fred Tompkins said.
Added his wife: “We are sad and outraged by the decision of the grand jury.”
On Monday night, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch announced that the county grand jury had decided not to seek criminal charges against officer Wilson in the killing of Brown, 18, on a street in a Ferguson apartment complex.
That decision touched off a night of violence and looting in and near Ferguson and on South Grand Boulevard in the city. The peaceful marches Tuesday are a continuation of protests against the much-awaited decision.