Police arrested at least two people yesterday as nightly protests in the racially troubled US suburb of Ferguson over the police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown shifted into the heart of St Louis.
Up to 50 youthful demonstrators gathered after sunset at the Midwestern city's historic 19th century Old Courthouse to march through streets lined with bars filled with St Patrick's revelers.
"Justice is dead! We have to wake it up," one protester, David Ragland, shouted from the steps of the white colonnaded courthouse where in 1846 black slave Dred Scott filed his unsuccessful but historic lawsuit to win his freedom.
When some of the protesters briefly held up traffic, police stepped in and took away two men - a young protester with a kerchief over his face and a freelance photojournalist, Philip Montgomery, on assignment for the Mashable website.
Mashable's executive editor Jim Roberts said via Twitter that Montgomery was "fine" after he was released a short time later.
Ferguson has been the scene of almost nightly protests since 18-year-old Brown was fatally shot by a white police officer on August 9, sparking national outrage, occasional violence and a fierce debate about policing and race relations in America today.
Tension flared anew Wednesday - after Ferguson's embattled police chief Thomas Jackson resigned - when shots rang out amid an otherwise peaceful night-time rally, wounding two police officers.
Police immediately launched a manhunt, but no arrests have yet been made.
Mayor James Knowles, under growing pressure to resign, spent much of yesterday with about 20 local entrepreneurs who say their small businesses have been struggling since Brown was killed.
'Standing with you'
Steve Moore, who hosted the meeting at his soul food restaurant, said he wanted out-of-towners who make up a big chunk of the ongoing Ferguson protests to move on.
"I'm asking all the protesters that are here for the wrong reasons to stay out of our city, because you are not only affecting our city and hurting our city, but you're hurting us as an African (American) business," Moore said.
"You say that you're here to march and to support us, but some of you are really hurting us," he said.
Five residents of Ferguson initiated an attempt to oust Knowles on Friday, submitting an affidavit for recall that they hope might lead to the mayor's resignation and fresh elections.
News of the initiative came from a St Louis activist group, Organization for Black Struggle, active in the Ferguson protests, on its Twitter feed.
The Justice Department is calling for significant reforms in Ferguson after it issued a report last week that laid bare a culture of racial bias within its overwhelmingly white police force, which targeted African-Americans to collect fines to bolster municipal finances.
It did not, however, recommend prosecuting Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Brown, on federal civil rights charges, saying it lacked enough evidence to do so.
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