ST. LOUIS -- Police officers, some of them outfitted in riot gear, clashed with hundreds of angry protesters early Friday morning in a St. Louis neighborhood where a black teenager had been killed by an off-duty police officer this week.
Some demonstrators in the crowd burned American flags, smashed the windows of cars and businesses, and allegedly threw a knife at a police officer on the scene, striking him in his body vest. At several points, gunshots could be heard in the distance.
It was the second night in a row that protesters came out following the Wednesday shooting death of Vonderrit Myers Jr., an 18-year-old who was facing weapons charges and wearing an ankle monitor. St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson has said that investigators found a gun on the scene and evidence that at least three shots had been fired in the direction of the officer.
The demonstrations came ahead of a weekend of planned protests in nearby Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed 18-year-old, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by a police officer on Aug. 9. Organizers predict that thousands of people from across the nation will gather to participate in "Ferguson October," a series of events surrounding Brown's death and the broader issues it has raised. The headline event is a march scheduled for Saturday morning in downtown St. Louis.
On Thursday night, officers from the St. Louis Police Department used pepper spray against demonstrators at several points, including when a handful of protesters refused orders to clear the street early Friday morning. “Disperse or you will be subject to arrest,” an officer said over a loudspeaker shortly before police deployed pepper spray against the protesters who remained.
“It burns so bad!” one young woman screamed as she dropped to her knees. As she cried, a young man picked her up and carried her away from the pepper spray cloud.
The protesters who were hit rinsed their stinging faces, as pepper spray veterans offered tips to those who had been hit for the first time. “When you take a shower, make sure it’s cold," said one.