Police, protesters clash in St. Louis ahead of weekend of rallies

Demonstrators block an intersection as they occupy streets protesting the October 8 killing of 18-year-old, Vonderrit Myers Jr, by an off duty St. Louis police officer on Oct 9, 2014 in St Louis, Missouri. -- PHOTO: AFP
Demonstrators block an intersection as they occupy streets protesting the October 8 killing of 18-year-old, Vonderrit Myers Jr, by an off duty St. Louis police officer on Oct 9, 2014 in St Louis, Missouri. -- PHOTO: AFP

ST LOUIS (Reuters) - Police clashed with protesters in St. Louis for a second consecutive night, a day after an officer killed a black teenager and ahead of a weekend of planned marches and rallies in the area over the August killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

As many as 400 demonstrators spread out across several city blocks in south St. Louis, angrily shouting and chanting at rows of police officers, many of whom were clad in riot gear with helmets, body armour and shields.

In footage published by MSNBC and on social media, demonstrators said police at one point rushed toward them and pepper sprayed them. One man could be seen later having milk and water poured over his eyes.

Dozens of demonstrators met earlier at the site where 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr. was shot dead by a white police officer on Wednesday in the south St. Louis neighbourhood of Shaw.

Police said Myers fired multiple times at the officer, before the officer returned 17 shots and fatally wounded him.

The St. Louis area is bracing for further unrest over the August killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer two months ago, with Myers' killing on Wednesday expected to add fuel to the fire.

Several civil rights organizations and protest groups, including Hands Up United, planned to mark the weekend with marches and rallies in St. Louis and the suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, where Brown was killed.

The groups are demanding the arrest of the officer who killed Brown, and want to draw attention to police treatment of black Americans. Protest organizers said they are planning only peaceful activities, but fear that Wednesday's killing of the black teen might trigger violent outbursts.

"We never advocate violence ... But I do know that people were angry last night and they will be out this weekend," said Tory Russell, a leader of Hands Up United. "I don't know what they are going to do."

At least 6,000 have registered on an organizing website for the "weekend of resistance" events in and around Ferguson, which kick off on Friday with a "justice now" march to the office of St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch.

The weekend is to be capped with actions of "civil disobedience" on Monday.

Organizers said they are also planning to create a "memory altar" to victims of police violence and to hold a candlelight march carrying a coffin to the Ferguson Police Department.

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said law enforcement officers throughout the area are planning for large crowds and possible violence.

"There are a lot of people coming into town," said Knowles."We are going to be prepared. There is intel out there that there are people wanting to do bad things. And people who want to cause a problem are going to use that (the shooting on Wednesday) as a rallying cry," he said.

The police department would not identify the 32-year-old officer who shot Myers while he was off duty working for a private security company, but said he was not hurt and has been placed on administrative leave as the shooting is investigated.

Relatives of Myers said he did not have a gun, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The shooting sparked protests that raged until dawn on Thursday. One person was arrested and three police vehicles were damaged in the unrest, police officials said.