Pepper spray, arrests as Ferguson protesters storm St. Louis City Hall (VIDEO)
A crowd of protesters stormed St. Louis City Hall on Wednesday, forcing the building into lockdown and adding to rising tensions in the wake of the Ferguson grand jury decision. Three people were arrested and pepper spray was deployed.
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The attempt to enter City Hall was made by at least a dozen demonstrators, many of whom screamed “Shame, shame” as they tried to make it past security. The ensuing scuffle resulted in police calling more than 100 extra officers to the scene, according to the Associated Press.
Although security guards kept most protesters from entering the building, an unknown number were able to sneak past and make it inside. Speaking with local KMOV, the chief of staff for the St. Louis Mayor’s Office, Jeff Rainford, said some demonstrators became “unruly,” adding that pepper spray was used when that became the case.
Police said the three arrested failed to disperse when ordered to do so, KSDK News reported.
The City Hall incident came as hundreds of people marched through downtown St. Louis on Wednesday, expressing anger and disagreement over a grand jury’s decision not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.
Before the march to City Hall began, protesters began the day by holding a mock trial for Wilson. Taking place on the steps of the Old Courthouse – where the Dred Scott trial occurred – protesters declared Wilson “guilty as charged.” They also criticized the grand jury for needing months to make its decision.
After two consecutive nights of protests, Ferguson residents are hoping the third night will be much less tense as Thanksgiving nears. Police made 58 arrests overnight on Tuesday, but some residents told AP that they were heartened by the news that some demonstrators prevented rioters and looters from damaging businesses.
"The criminals, the looters, whatever you want to call them: They're not protesters. They wanted to vandalize the place," said local restaurant owner Jerome Jenkins. "And the protesters locked arms together, and they surrounded our place and...told them, 'No, you're not going to touch this place.'"
Scenes of looting and vandalism have made headlines over the past two nights, with some establishments – like a Little Caesar’s pizza restaurant – being set on fire.