Ferguson police arrested a handful of protesters late Friday during a demonstration in front of the city’s Police Department.
The arrests, made about 45 minutes into a demonstration billed as a “liberation party,” came after a Ferguson officer used a bullhorn to warn that protesters who were blocking traffic on the street were in violation of a city ordinance.
After the officer had given three warnings, two city police vehicles moved slowly down South Florissant Road with sirens blaring at about 8:40 p.m. As they stopped near the crowd, other officers rushed to the street. Protesters said officers took five people into custody.
That prompted outrage from the crowd of more than 50 people. "She didn't resist anything," activist Cori Bush said about the arrest of one protester. "To drag her like that, and then you got her in handcuffs, and you yanking her around, you could have broke her arm. It’s uncalled for.
"She’s out here protesting [for the] rights of people," Bush said. "We’re not out here because we’re not doing right, we’re out here because they’re not doing right.”
Protesters have taken to the streets since Sept. 15, when St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson ruled that former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley was not guilty of first degree murder in the 2011 shooting death of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith.
The demonstrations have occurred throughout the region — from downtown St. Louis to the Delmar Loop and Galleria mall to St. Charles.
Protesters say they are determined to disrupt business as usual and to take their message to comfortable areas so people who otherwise might not receive their message that police need to stop using deadly force against black people can hear it. They also returned to Ferguson, where former officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Mike Brown in 2014.
"We are like a police state," said James Tucker, 66. "Every case I’ve had in this country I’ve been denied my basic civil, human rights and constitutional rights as an African-American.
"So it’s very clear to me that the police work for corporate America." Tucker said. "They protect the businesses down here. They don’t work for the average citizen, The taxpayer. We pay them but yet they don’t’ respect our rights and protect us."
Friday's protest, which started slowly across from the Police Department, followed one a week earlier in which protesters let public transit through but did not let other vehicles pass.
But Ferguson police signaled that they would not allow that to occur a second time.
"The Ferguson Police Department understands your First Amendment rights,” an officer said. “We’re willing to work with you. Please get out of the streets.”
Officers told the protesters they would be allowed on sidewalks and parking lots.
The protesters drowned out the warnings with chants of “Whose Streets? Our Streets” and “Take one, take all.”
“Y’all ain’t the only ones with a megaphone,” one protester said.
As one person started singing “Now we’re in the struggle, I can’t leave… we ain’t gonna stop until our people are free,” the police prepared to move in.
Some protesters then gathered across the street.
“If you’re not prepared to be arrested tonight, do not go out,” one said over a bullhorn to others in the crowd.
Others vowed to return.
The crowd left the street about 9:15 p.m. Some said they were headed to the St. Ann Police Department, where they thought those under arrest had been taken.