ST. LOUIS — Officers arrested 17 protesters and used pepper spray to subdue some of them Sunday in a St. Louis neighborhood not far from the suburb where violence erupted this summer after the shooting of a black man by a white policeman.
The arrests were the only incident in an otherwise peaceful weekend of demonstrations in the city to protest the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson in August. The shooting sparked sometimes violent demonstrations in the predominantly black suburb.
Early Sunday morning, about 200 protesters gathered in Shaw, a south St. Louis neighborhood where last week another black 18-year-old was killed by a white police officer, St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said. The protesters, some wearing masks, marched toward a QuikTrip convenience store and tried to force open its doors, Dotson said.
Riot police told the crowd to disperse but some 50 protesters linked their arms to create a human chain, he said. About half of them heeded the police warning.
"The people who were left there were people who made a conscious decision they wanted to be arrested," Dotson said.
At least one officer was hit by a rock but was not seriously injured, and officers used pepper spray to get those arrested to comply with police, Dotson said. Police were charging those arrested with unlawful assembly then releasing them Sunday.
Community activists and organizers of the weekend of protests did not respond to Associated Press requests Sunday for comment on the police version of events.
The planned demonstrations began Friday afternoon with a march outside the St. Louis County prosecutor's office, where protesters renewed calls for prosecutor Bob McCulloch to charge Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson officer, in the Aug. 9 death of Brown. A grand jury is reviewing the case and the Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation.
Since Brown's death, three other fatal police shootings of black males have occurred in the St. Louis area. The most recent involved an off-duty St. Louis officer who was working for a private neighborhood security patrol when he shot and killed 18-year-old Vonderrit D. Myers on Wednesday night.
The white officer, whose name hasn't been released, fired 17 rounds after police say Myers opened fire. Myers' parents say he was unarmed, and many speakers at a weekend rally echoed those doubts.
Demonstrators stood outside Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis, where the Cardinals were playing the San Francisco Giants this weekend in the National League Championship Series of professional baseball. Fans were unimpeded by the protesters Saturday and none picketed the stadium Sunday night.
Associated Press writers Alan Scher Zagier and Jim Salter in St. Louis; and Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City contributed to this report.