Planned protests this weekend throughout the St. Louis area to stop police violence led to at least 17 arrests Sunday as protesters staged an unplanned sit-in outside a convenience store and refused police orders to leave.
St. Louis Police Department spokeswoman Schron Jackson told Reuters that those detained were arrested for "unlawful assembly" Sunday morning in the parking lot of a QuikTrip convenience store. Witnesses claim that police used tear gas and pepper spray on a few dozen protesters, but Reuters could not confirm the report.
According to Reuters, protests Saturday were peaceful, even as police stood in full riot gear while watching those who marched and chanted for justice in the recent fatal shootings of 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr., who was shot by an off-duty St. Louis police officer in October, and 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was unarmed when he was shot in August by Ferguson, Mo., Officer Darren Wilson.
Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, who, Reuters notes, hasn't participated in many protests since her son's death, led marchers Saturday. While McSpadden has been vocal about wanting justice for her son, she has been selective about appearances and, according to Reuters, left the group, which grew to about 1,000 marchers. While police reported that protesters shouted obscenities at them and some officers with face guards confronted marchers who donned bandannas over their noses and mouths, there were no arrests made Saturday.
The fatal shooting of Myers last week rubbed raw an unhealed wound for those still mourning the death of Brown. According to police, Myers was standing with friends in St. Louis' Shaw neighborhood when an off-duty officer working for a private security firm drove past. The officer made a U-turn and claims that he was planning to issue a "pedestrian check" when one of the teens ran. Police have not explained exactly what a pedestrian check entails or how it is decided when the procedure is administered.
According to police, the officer chased the teens first in his car and then on foot. The officer reportedly stopped Myers, and a scuffled ensued. The teen reportedly fought with the off-duty officer and broke free. While Myers was running away, he allegedly turned and fired at the officer three times before the gun jammed. Police say the officer returned fire, shooting a reported 17 times.
However, witnesses say that Myers had just returned from a nearby store when the police officer stopped him. They claim that the teen was not carrying a gun but only had a sandwich in his hand when he was shot. Some claim that the teen had a Taser used on him before he was shot.
On Saturday, "union members, gay rights activists and people from the Occupy movement" joined marchers, Reuters reports.
Tory Russell, founder of Hands Up United, told the news service that the protesters plan to continue to draw attention to the number of young black lives lost to police violence. "This isn't going to stop until there is change with police and black youth," he said.
Read more at Reuters.