By Chris Hoenig
Thirty-five people were arrested after a protest over the shooting death of Michael Brown outside of St. Louis, and demonstrators are blaming police for ratcheting up the tensions of an otherwise peaceful demonstration.
Several dozen protesters gathered along Interstate 70 near the St. Louis airport, hoping to block the highway for four-and-a-half hours—the same amount of time that Brown’s body laid uncovered in the middle of a street about five miles away after being shot and killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. But police, dressed out in full riot gear, denied the crowd access to the highway and began arresting protesters following a tense standoff.
“They’re absolutely too aggressive,” Ferguson resident Curtis Sadler said of the police, whom protesters blamed for escalating tensions at a peaceful protest. Ultimately, four were arrested for throwing bottles and stones at the riot-gear-armed police.
Of the remaining 31 arrests, nearly all were taken into custody for unlawful assembly.
Protesters told reporters they feared that St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch could not lead a fair investigation. McCulloch’s father was a police officer who was shot and killed in the line of duty, and several lawmakers and protesters have said he has shown an unfair bias when investigating police-involved shootings, declining to charge police officers who shoot and kill unarmed Black men, like Brown.
“McCulloch got to go! McCulloch got to go!” Charles Brooks said as he sat on the highway. “I want to see justice served here.”
Moments later, Brooks was placed in handcuffs and taken to a Missouri Department of Corrections bus.
Hopes of using protests like Wednesday’s highway shutdown to pressure Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Wilson’s killing of Brown took a serious blow last week when Nixon lifted the state of emergency that was put in place following the shooting. The move stripped Nixon of the authority to appoint a special prosecutor.
“Civil disobedience does cause inconvenience,” said Eric E. Vickers, Chief of Staff for State Senator Jamilah Nasheed and one of the protest’s lead organizers. “It does cause discomfort.
“We’ve created a huge disturbance, brought attention to the issue, and we will be back.”
An additional 50 protesters turned out to block one of Ferguson’s main roadways, closing South Florissant Road about one block from Ferguson Police Department headquarters. That protest was cut short by a torrential downpour.