ST. LOUIS • About 200 protesters marched through the streets of downtown St. Louis Saturday afternoon, the day after police arrested five protesters in front of the Ferguson police station.
The Ferguson action marked the fourth week of protests after a not-guilty verdict in the murder trial of a former St. Louis police officer. During the St. Louis action on Saturday, police took a hands-off approach, diverting traffic in their cruisers as protesters fanned out across downtown streets.
On Friday night, Ferguson police told a group of about 50 protesters two or three times to move away from south Florissant Road before making the arrests about 40 minutes after the crowd gathered. Most in the crowd moved to the sidewalk, but a few remained, according to several people at the scene.
The five people arrested were taken to the St. Ann jail and were expected to be charged with impeding traffic, according to a police officer at the scene. As of midnight Friday, police had started releasing people after protesters had paid bail. Protest organizers said Saturday morning that all protesters had been released.
The protests were a continuation of a series prompted by the acquittal Sept. 15 of former Officer Jason Stockley in the fatal shooting of drug suspect Anthony Lamar Smith after a high-speed chase in 2011.
Several dozen people also marched in Ferguson a week ago, in “the place that started it all” according to Cori Bush, who has been among those leading the protests. The protests in Ferguson three years ago followed the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer there.
The protests have been mostly peaceful. In the early days after the verdict, there were several incidents of vandalism including smashed windows in the Central West End, the Loop and downtown. There have also been mass arrests including more than 120 in downtown two days after the verdict, 22 at the Galleria mall and more than 140 after a shutdown of Highway 40 on Oct. 3.
Blocking streets has been a common action among protesters because, “if you don’t inconvenience people, people won’t listen,” said Angelique Kidd of Ferguson. “People will sit for hours in traffic for any other reason, but they can’t sit in traffic while people talk about justice and inequality?”
Kidd said she wasn’t sure why police ordered people off the street Friday but didn’t in a similar situation last week. She said there hadn’t been any confrontations with drivers or other incidents.
“From my experience protesting in Ferguson, (the police) are not consistent in any way, shape or form and they never have been,” Kidd said.
The protesters generally do not block emergency vehicles or public transportation such as city buses when they are in the street.
Kidd said Friday that people can expect the protests to continue.
“It’s too easy to not talk about racism. The only way we’re going to effect change is to keep going,” she said.
Authorities with the Ferguson Police Department could not be reached late Friday night for further comment.
Jack Suntrup of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.