Arrests as Ferguson protesters plan shutdown



BERKELEY, Mo. (AP) - Authorities arrested protesters who were planning to block part of Interstate 70 on Wednesday near the St. Louis suburb where an unarmed black 18-year-old was fatally shot by a white police officer.

Groups of protesters were gathering in the middle of a road near interstate on-ramps, not far from where Michael Brown was gunned down Aug. 9. They were hoping to block access to the highway at the height of rush-hour traffic.

After being warned to stay out of the street, some refused, and an Associated Press reporter saw at least 12 cuffed by police.

Organizers said they expected to be arrested, and they were greeted at the protest site by police in riot gear. The Missouri State Highway Patrol and city and county police departments said they will "enforce the law and ensure public safety" at the protest.

There did not immediately appear to be anyone giving directions or otherwise organizing the crowd of about 150 people.

About 120 miles away in Jefferson City, Brown's killing briefly dominated a veto override session at the Missouri Capitol, where a state senator who represents parts of Ferguson called Gov. Jay Nixon a "coward" for his initial response to Brown's death.

Democratic state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a vocal critic of Nixon, said the governor "stood by and did nothing until this became a global story."

Police Arrest Protestors Blocking Interstate Near Ferguson
Police Arrest Protestors Blocking Interstate Near Ferguson

Nixon has come under heavy criticism for his perceived slowness in response to the shooting and its subsequent looting and unrest. Copies of Nixon's daily schedule provided upon the request of The Associated Press showed Nixon going about his routine business for several days after the shooting, splitting his attention between the unrest in Ferguson and items such as announcing grants to preschools and visiting the State Fair.

Nixon has declined to second-guess his actions, saying Brown's death didn't initially appear to be the sort of situation that a governor should inject himself into.

Wednesday's protest near Ferguson followed a tense meeting of the city's elected leaders Tuesday night. The city council held its first meeting since Brown was killed, hoping to use the gathering as a chance to promote community healing. Instead they were met with anger and warnings from constituents that council members would be voted out of office.

Ferguson officials have pledged to boost minority hiring in a 53-person police force with just three black officers and to meet informally in city neighborhoods to promote a public dialogue.