UPDATE, 1:10 a.m.: The situation in the Shaw Neighborhood has heated up again. With 100 or more people gathered at South Grand Boulevard and Arsenal, site of broken windows and looting earlier tonight, fresh police units moved in—60 to 80 of them, wearing full riot gear.
St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson appeared on the scene personally shortly before 1 a.m.
“We tried to move people out, but they seemed to want to stay and break windows and break into the backs of buildings,” he said. “So we're going to clear these streets.”
Minutes later, a police truck moved in, tear gas was shot, and smoke engulfed the street. The crowd dispersed immediately.
ST. LOUIS • As smoke and fire erupted in Ferguson tonight, about 300 protesters far to the south, in the Shaw Neighborhood, clogged streets and caused a shut down of traffic.
Shortly after 10 p.m., the Missouri Department of Transportation had shut down traffic on Interstate 44 from both directions and was forcing drivers to exit at South Grand Boulevard. The interstate was re-opened a short time later after the protesters dispersed.
The shut-down began when the protesters, marching north on South Grand Boulevard in a generally peaceful protest, reached the I-44 overpass, at about 10 p.m. Instead of marching under it, about 250 of them marched up the eastbound off-ramp and onto interstate itself.
By 10:30, the state had shut down the interstate, and police in full riot gear had formed a line just east of South Grand on the interstate. Protesters, chanting "This is what Democracy looks like," remained on the interstate as well. The police and protesters were separated by less than 100 feet in a standoff for time, with four vehicles trapped between them.
One of the trapped cars was driven by Joe Wilmering of Washington, Mo., was on his way to work at Anheuser-Busch. When he reached the South Grand Boulevard overpass, he said he saw lights and noticed a bunch of people walking on the highway.
He said one protester came up and started bouncing car, then about 10 others pulled him away. “They do seem like they're doing a decent job of policing themselves,” he said.
But later in the evening, protesters started breaking windows and looting businesses at South Grand Boulevard and Arsenal, including a FedEx, a St. Louis Bread Co. and a pawn shop. At about 11:40, police finally cleared the area with tear gas.
Things initially began much quieter in the Shaw Neighborhood, which has been considered one of the potential hot-spots for unrest during the run-up to Monday's announcement that there would be no criminal charges in the Ferguson shooting death of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson.
The Shaw Neighborhood was the site of the shooting death last month of VonDerrit Myers Jr. by an off-duty police officer.
In the same area late Monday, about 18 people listened to the grand jury announcement on a car radio parked in front of a memorial to Myers.
Two members in the audience were sisters, Natalie and Cynthia Hill, who live in the Shaw Neighborhood. Upon hearing the no-charge announcement, Natalie loudly proclaimed: “You'd rather go to war than hold one cop accountable.”
The Hills and others in the small crowd shook their heads throughout the announcement, but remained silent.
Later, Natalie Hill said: “I'm 64 years old, and I was in the streets (in the 1960). I feel everything I fought for has been taken away. Our young people are still being kille din the street.”
When asked if she had expected such a verdict, Hill said, “I'm not surprised. And this isn't over.”
It wasn't. Later in the evening, a peaceful crowd of about 300 people began marching north from Grand and Arsenal, chanting “No justice, no peace!” and “Whose streets? Our street!”
The crowd was made up of predominantly white, younger protesters, some of whom had earlier attended a protest planning meeting in Shaw Neighborhood for students of Washington University.
Last month's Shaw Neighborhood shooting death of Myers Jr., 18, by an off-duty police officer working for a private security company, hasn't spawned the same international scrutiny as death of Brown in Ferguson.
But Myers' death has spurred local protests and vandalism that has some worried the area could erupt in violence if tonight's grand jury announcement regarding Brown's death ends in no indictment of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
The fact that Brown was unarmed hasn't been disputed. In the Shaw Neighborhood case, police said Myers was armed and opened fire first on the off-duty officer. Myers' family claims witnesses have said otherwise.
On Sunday, about 125 protesters marched for two hours from the Shaw Market to Kingshighway and through the Grove to protest Myers' shooting. Later, vandals spray painted threats on stone gates marking the entrance the entrance to Flora Place, a prestigious area of large homes, writing: "If we burn, you burn with us."
The vandals also sprayed the initials "FTP," meaning, "(expletive) the police," a phrase chanted by some protesters against police shootings elsewhere.
—Joe Holleman, Nicholas J.C. Pistor and Kevin McDermott of the Post-Dispatch staff contributed to this report.