UPDATED with information about arrests
ST. LOUIS • About 70 protesters complaining of mistreatment by police gathered in front of Police Headquarters this morning, prompting an often-tense standoff in which officers used pepper spray.
The group taped to windows flyers that included 11 demands, including the firing of police officers involved in deadly force encounters and amnesty for protesters charged with non-violent offenses.
Demonstrators met around 10 a.m. near the Old Courthouse downtown and blocked traffic at various intersections near Ballpark Village and the Scottrade Center as they marched. Police escorted them.
At Police Headquarters, at Olive and 20th Streets, about 15 protesters went into the lobby with plans to stage a sit-in. Others held signs and chanted outside, "Show me what democracy looks like!" and "Free the people!" and "People united will never be defeated!"
When more protesters tried to rush into the front doors, officers linked arms and grabbed some by the shoulders and pushed them to the ground. Once the crowd backed up, officers used pepper spray, which hit multiple people. For the next half hour, more than a dozen lay on sidewalks as fellow demonstrators flushed their eyes with milk of magnesia or water.
The group vowed to remain outside the building for 4 1/2 hours, the same length of time that Michael Brown's body laid in the street after a Ferguson police officer shot and killed him Aug. 9, triggering months of protests.
Some in the crowd called today's effort, "Occupy the Police Day."
Shelina Ramnarine, 26, joined the protest about an hour after it began. She said disruption is just as necessary now as it was in August, when Michael Brown, a black teenager, was fatally shot by a white Ferguson police officer.
"What has changed?" Remnarine asked. "Can you tell me anything that has actually changed in the way of laws?"
As of 1 p.m., police had arrested five during the protest, including a counter protester who yelled racial slurs at black demonstrators outside the police department. A police spokeswoman said those arrested will be charged with disrupting the peace and trespassing. The counter protester will also be charged with third degree assault, she said.
Multiple arrests were made later in the afternoon.