Thousands of people in U.S. cities from Los Angeles to New York protested peacefully while others blocked traffic or clashed with police as anger flared over a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer who killed a black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri.
Nationwide, demonstrators Monday night led marches, waved signs and shouted chants of “hands up, don’t shoot,” the refrain that has become a rallying cry in protests over police killings across the country.
The most disruptive demonstrations were in St. Louis and Oakland, California, where protesters flooded the lanes of freeways, milling about stopped cars with their hands in the air.
Groups ranging from a few dozen to a few hundred people also gathered in Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, Boston and Washington, D.C., where people held up signs and chanted “justice for Michael Brown” outside the White House.
“Mike Brown is an emblem (of a movement). This country is at its boiling point,” said Ethan Jury, a protester in Philadelphia, where hundreds marched. “How many people need to die? How many black people need to die?”
Activists had been planning to protest even before the nighttime announcement that Officer Darren Wilson will not be charged in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
The racially charged case in Ferguson has inflamed tensions and reignited debates over police-community relations even in cities hundreds of miles from the predominantly black St. Louis suburb.
In Oakland, several hundred protesters holding signs that read “The People Say Guilty!” shut down a major highway and other streets and vandalized businesses and police cars.
Shanna Serrano, 24, of San Jose, said protesters took over Interstate 580 to “shut it down, gain that attention for Michael Brown.”
More than 40 people were arrested for hurling bottles, breaking windows and setting small fires, Mayor Jean Quan said in a statement early Tuesday. No serious injuries were reported.
A police car was spray-painted and a bank window broken as protesters marched through downtown Oakland.
In Los Angeles, demonstrations remained mostly small and peaceful, but about 200 people marching toward downtown briefly shut down Interstate 110, City News Service reported.
After midnight, officers wearing riot gear fired hard foam projectiles into the ground to disperse about 50 protesters downtown, the Los Angeles Times reported.
ST. LOUIS AND FERGUSON
A diverse crowd of several hundred protesters marched and chanted in St. Louis not far from the site of another police shooting, shutting down Interstate 44 for a time. A few cars got stuck amid the protesters, who appeared to be leaving the vehicles alone. They chanted “hands up, don’t shoot” and “black lives matter.”
“There’s clearly a license for violence against minorities, specifically blacks,” said Mike Arnold, 38, a teacher. “Hopefully this will be a turning point.”
Demonstrators in Ferguson vandalized police cars and buildings, hugged barricades and taunted officers with expletives while police fired smoke canisters and tear gas. Gunshots were heard on the streets and fires raged.
In Seattle, marching demonstrators stopped periodically to sit or lie down in city intersections, blocking traffic, as dozens of police officers watched. After hours of marching peacefully, protesters also hurled canned food, bottles and rocks, police said. Five people were arrested.
In New York, the family of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man killed by a police chokehold earlier this year, joined the Rev. Al Sharpton at a speech in Harlem lamenting the grand jury’s decision. Later, several hundred people who had gathered in Manhattan’s Union Square marched peacefully to Times Square.
Police said that protesters briefly shut down the Triborough and Brooklyn bridges.
At Cleveland’s Public Square, at least a dozen protesters’ signs referenced police shootings that have shaken the community there, including Saturday’s fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who had a fake gun at a Cleveland playground when officers confronted him.