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Downtown Demonstration Shuts Down I-44 Near The Dome: Highways Blocked In Many Cities

Near Laclede's Landing
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Several hundred demonstrators marched through downtown St. Louis Tuesday afternoon, protesting the grand jury decision not to charge Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown.

About two hours into the protest, a large portion of the crowd marched up the westbound exit ramp to Interstate 44 at, shutting down first the ramps, and then the highway near the Edward Jones Dome. All told, traffic in the area was disrupted for about half an hour.

Police in riot gear first blocked the eastbound ramp, and then moved onto the highway overpass. By about 3:30 p.m. protesters began retreating back down the exit ramp as police advanced in formation toward them while banging their batons.

On social media, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police announced that they arrested three during the highway shutdown due to “failure to disperse.”

At the bottom of the ramp police ordered everyone to leave; and after a short pause, the crowd continued to march.

Juliette Jacobs
Credit Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio
Juliette Jacobs

Among the crowd was Juliette Jacobs, who had white streaks of Maalax and water on her face – an attempt to get rid of stinging eyes from what she called mace.

“We were up on the highway and we sat down to show them that we were peaceful protest(ers). And they advanced on us. So we just stayed sitting down, and then they maced everybody in the front line,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs said that the three who were arrested because they didn’t move, couldn’t move because they had couldn’t see due to the mace in their eyes.

Others in the group identified the substance sprayed by police as pepper spray.

Another protester, Jairus Williams, said he was among the first up the ramp, charging up thinking “This is real. This is a cause.”

Jarius Williams
Credit Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio
Jarius Williams

Williams said he is motivated by wanting a more equitable future for his nieces and nephews.

“I need there to be transparency between law enforcement and community. I need there to be a trust built knowing that I can go anywhere and be OK, and not be harassed because of my skin color, or people not be intimidated because I’m a 6 foot 2 black man that’s 220 pounds,” Williams said, “I’m one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, so when people look at me as intimidating it bothers me.”

The highway shutdown was part of a three-hour march that began at Kiener Plaza and also included stops at the federal courthouse and the old courthouse in front of the Gateway Arch.

Also in front of the federal courthouse, a small group of about 20 approached barricades. With arms locked, the group stood in two rows for about half an hour. At one point the Rev. Lionel Anderson of the Washington Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church led the group in a chant of “peace.”

Lionel Anderson
Credit Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio
Lionel Anderson's sign says I am a Man

Anderson, wearing a black bowler hat and carrying a Bible, said that he encouraged the group to leave after a young man wanted to risk arrest by rushing the barricade.

“We need to recognize that God is a God of peace and not violence, and stay peaceful,” Anderson said.

While the small group demonstrated on the ramp of the federal courthouse, several hundred gathered nearby on the steps of the courthouse.

Led by some familiar faces—including Ashley Yates, Rasheen Aldridge and Zaki Baruti, they chanted several phrases, including “From Dred Scott to Mike Brown” and “Not one more.”

Protesters at the Eagleton Courthouse
Credit Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio
Protesters at the Eagleton Courthouse

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.

Elsewhere in the U.S.

In more demonstrations across the country, protesters took to the streets -- and often took over interstates for a time.

As one person said in New York: “We’re not worried that Darren Wilson is going to do something like this again, we’re worried that this sets the precedence for other cops or other people to get away with the same exact thing,” protester Eugene Varnedoe told WCBS 880’s Monica Miller. (News CBS New YorkProtestersTake Over FDR, West Side Highway Night After Ferguson Decision)

In Boston, “More than a thousand people blocked access to the Mass. Ave. Connector Tuesday night.” (Boston.com Police Struggle to Keep Peaceful Protesters Off of Boston’s Highways

Interstates were shut down in Dallas (Dallas Morning News, Ferguson protesters in Dallas shut down I-35E for almost 2 hours), Nashville (The Tennessean Nashville protesters disperse after blocking I-24 in Ferguson vigil), Baltimore (ABC2 Fallout from Ferguson: Baltimore protests grand jury decision) and Oakland (CBS SF Bay Area Ferguson Protests In Oakland Turn Ugly For 2nd Straight Night: Freeways Blocked, Looting, Fires). In Los Angeles Ferguson protesters stop traffic throughout downtown L.A. (Los Angeles Times)