Protest activity outside Missouri seemed to surpass the number of demonstrations in this St. Louis suburb where the Thanksgiving holiday and cold weather continued to keep tensions below the boil after a grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man.
The decision not to charge Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown touched off violent protests, looting and arson in Ferguson and less violent demonstrations across the country, especially in Los Angeles and New York. Hundreds of people have been arrested on protest-related charges since the grand jury’s decision was announced on Monday.
On Thursday, at least seven people were arrested in New York as they were heading to the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, police told the Los Angeles Times. The parade, which winds its way down the west side of Central Park through Times Square and on to Herald Square and the iconic Macy’s store, draws several million spectators and was unaffected by the arrests or protests, authorities said.
The protesters chanted, “Justice for Mike Brown!” and “No justice, no peace!” when they were confronted by police who refused to let the group disrupt the parade, known for its huge balloons.
Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said authorities would not allow anyone to create problems at the parade.
“We will not tolerate, under any circumstances, any effort to disrupt this parade,” Bratton said Thursday morning. “This is a national event, a historic event. Anybody who would seek to interrupt it would be callous, indeed, on this very special day.”
There were no reports of major confrontations or damage to property overnight in Ferguson, where about 100 people marched in a light snow. St. Louis County police said Thursday there had been just two arrests, a sharp drop from earlier in the week when more than 100 people were arrested in the area over several days.
After days of unrest, Ferguson still bore the scars. West Florissant Avenue, where a dozen buildings burned and gunfire broke out on Monday, remained blocked off by police cruisers.
Most of the businesses along South Florissant Road, which on Tuesday night was the scene of the last in a series of rolling battles between demonstrators and police, remained boarded up and closed. A “Seasons Greetings” sign hung over the backdrop of shuttered buildings, and a sign painted on one store read simply “we all need your prayers.”
Outside the Ferguson Police Department headquarters, Houston resident Randy Doxley was one of only a handful of pedestrians and reporters standing in the bitter cold. Doxley said he, his son and his nephew arrived in Ferguson on Thursday morning to visit family for Thanksgiving and felt compelled to visit the locations that have become synonymous with Brown’s death.
“This is my first time being here, we got right off the freeway and came here,” Doxley said. “It’s part of history, man.”
Doxley said many of his relatives are concerned that the unrest of previous days might again erupt after Thanksgiving dinner. “A lot of them are worried because at night you don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.
Doxley’s nephew, 22-year-old Justin Jones, said that as a young black man not much older than Brown, he felt compelled to visit the scene that has touched off a national discussion about race and police practices.
“It’s definitely huge to me. What happened is very tragic,” Jones said. “I needed to be down here and show face.”
National Guard troops with rifles remained posted at intersections and parking lots on Thursday.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon who has been criticized for not initially deploying the Guard in strength, thanked the soldiers.
“I appreciate the sacrifice that these law enforcement officers and citizen-soldiers are making, especially during this holiday weekend, in order to protect lives and property,” he said in a statement emailed to reporters. “I would ask Missourians to join me in thanking these officers and guardsmen as they spend time away from their families this Thanksgiving weekend.”
Nixon, state public safety director Dan Isom and Missouri State Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Ron Replogle plan to have a holiday dinner with the troops.
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