Twelve months since Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Mo., touched off a national protest movement, demonstrators have returned to its streets for a series of commemorations.
FERGUSON, Mo. — As demonstrators shouted, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and marched toward West Florissant Avenue, the scene Saturday looked in many ways like a flashback to the protests that followed the police killing of Michael Brown a year ago.
Michael Brown Sr., whose 18-year-old son and namesake was fatally shot by a Ferguson police officer last Aug. 9, was near the head of the procession. He added a stuffed animal to the road memorial near where his son died. Protesters used a megaphone to lead familiar chants. Police officers blocked traffic as drivers honked horns in support of the marchers.
Twelve months since Brown’s death in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson touched off a national protest movement, demonstrators have returned to its streets for a series of commemorations expected to last through Monday.
“To a lot of people, Mike Brown was a big shock,” said Carlatta Bussey, 41, a St. Louis resident who attended Saturday’s march with her 7-year-old son. “But to the black community, it wasn’t a big shock because it happens all the time.”
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Bussey said she planned to attend several weekend events, she said, to “show my son that he does have a voice.”
In addition to Saturday’s march, protesters planned musical performances, a youth “chalk-out” at a public park and tributes to other local men who have been killed by police.
On Friday night, a crowd of at least 100 people gathered outside the Ferguson police station, where they blocked traffic and chanted for nearly an hour.
In November, that was the site of almost nightly confrontations after a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson, the white officer who shot Brown. In March, during another protest at the headquarters, two officers were shot and wounded by bullets apparently fired from up nearby Tiffin Avenue. Prosecutors said a man who was arrested and charged in the shooting admitted firing the gun but claimed he was not aiming at officers.
The U.S. Justice Department also cleared Wilson, who resigned in November, of wrongdoing. A separate Justice Department investigation of Ferguson’s justice system found evidence of a profit-driven court system and widespread racial bias by police.
This weekend, the entrance to the police station was blocked by barricades, as was the parking lot of a tire company where protesters have congregated in the past. A stretch of Tiffin was closed to traffic for the weekend.
Perhaps more notably, no police officers in riot gear emerged Friday night when protesters arrived, a tactic that has drawn criticism.
Rather, a small handful of officers calmly walked out and spoke with demonstrators. Many of the Ferguson police on the scene wore white polo shirts rather than their regular uniforms.
By midnight, a couple of hours after they arrived, most protesters had left the area without incident and traffic was flowing again.
No arrests were reported.
During Saturday’s march, Missouri state troopers handed out water bottles to protesters, and police helped keep lanes of West Florissant clear for the marchers.
Michael Brown Sr. said he expected and wanted the weekend’s events to remain peaceful. But as protesters held “Black Lives Matter” signs and a youth drum line provided background music, he said his family remained in a state of grief. He said it was important to be in the streets remembering his son.
“I hurt every day,” Michael Brown Sr. said. “I have to stay moving and going just to keep me from going insane.”
The anniversary, he said, was a chance to keep “moving forward on a positive note.”