Thousands march in St Louis to protest police violence

Protesters march in a rally with a paper mache representation of Michael Brown with his hands up, in St Louis, Missouri, on Oct 11, 2014. Thousands of protesters marched through St Louis on Saturday as part of a weekend of demonstrations against poli
Protesters march in a rally with a paper mache representation of Michael Brown with his hands up, in St Louis, Missouri, on Oct 11, 2014. Thousands of protesters marched through St Louis on Saturday as part of a weekend of demonstrations against police violence organised after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white officer last summer. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

FERGUSON, Missouri (REUTERS) - Thousands of protesters marched through St Louis on Saturday as part of a weekend of demonstrations against police violence organised after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white officer last summer.

After a peaceful, 1/2-mile march through downtown, protesters rallied at Keiner Plaza.

Organisers included Hands Up Unite, an activist group that emerged after the Aug 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in suburban Ferguson, Missouri.

Civil rights organisations and protest groups have invited people from around the country to join vigils and marches in the St Louis area from Friday to Monday.

Tory Russell, one of the founders of Hands Up United, vowed to keep up the pressure on police to change how they deal with young black men.

He said he expected the grassroots movement that sprang from the Ferguson shooting to pick up momentum.

"This isn't going to stop until there is change with police and black youth," said Russell on the sidelines of the rally.

The weekend got off to a tense but peaceful start on Friday night, a break from the clashes with police that have erupted in the area in recent days.

Police said there had been no arrests, injuries or damage from the night's protests.

Under a partly cloudy autumn sky, the Saturday afternoon rally was joined by union members, gay rights activists and people from the Occupy movement.

There were even supporters of the Palestine cause carrying placards reading "#Palestine2Ferguson."

There was no visible police presence in the square.

On Friday afternoon, hundreds marched through the rain to the St Louis County courthouse in Clayton, adjacent to St Louis.

Protesters have called for the arrest and prosecution of Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot Brown. A grand jury is considering evidence in the case.

Some 300 people later assembled outside the nearby Ferguson Police Department, chanting phrases like "Who are we? Mike Brown!" and "Indict. Convict. Send those killer cops to jail."

Just a few feet away stood dozens of officers clad in riot gear.

Early Saturday morning, many protesters moved to the St Louis neighbourhood of Shaw, where 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr was shot dead on Wednesday by an off-duty white officer working for a private security firm.