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St. Louis Protesters Arrested in Weekend of Mass Civil Disobedience

This weekend marked two months since the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and police arrested more than a dozen protesters staging a sit-in at a gas station in St. Louis.
Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

As a mass civil disobedience campaign in Ferguson, Missouri pushed on through the weekend, police arrested more than a dozen protesters early Sunday who were staging a symbolic sit-in at a gas station nearby in St. Louis.

The demonstrators taken into custody were among a 100-strong crowd who gathered outside a QuikTrip gas station in the early hours of Sunday morning calling for justice in the August 9 shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

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St. Louis Metropolitan Police police did not immediately release the number of arrests, or say if any charges had been filed, but Chief Sam Dotson tweeted that the protesters were "attempting to storm" the gas station, and said the demonstrations had turned violent.

Ferguson prepares for 'weekend of resistance' as protests erupt once again. Read more here.

Protestors now throwing rocks at the police. Arrests have been made for continued illegal behavior.

— Chief Sam Dotson (@ChiefSLMPD)October 12, 2014

This weekend marked two months since the Brown shooting, which set off waves of protests and triggered a movement that has surged and ebbed in recent weeks. But the nationwide support and calls for justice have continued amid apologies made, apologies rejected, and the ongoing grand jury deliberation that will decide Wilson's fate.

The incendiary nature of Brown's death has provoked a mixed police response to protests across the state of Missouri, which were once spontaneous but have now become highly organized.

Thousands gathered this weekend for the coordinated four-day campaign dubbed "Ferguson October." The resistance movement began with peaceful rallies on Friday, when no clashes or injuries reported. Riot police stood alert while some 300 people gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department and shouted slogans like, "Indict. Convict. Send those killer cops to jail."

The rally took on a party atmosphere at one point, with people dancing to loud music in the police parking lot. At stages throughout the weekend campaign, some activists have expressed exasperation about the festive nature of the protests.

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The next day, some 3,000 demonstrators marched through downtown St Louis, united by various organizers such as Hands Up United, and joined by hundreds of others belonging to groups ranging from gay rights and Occupy activists to students and pro-Palestinian supporters who held placards that read, "#Palestine2Ferguson."

"It wasn't just about the black. You had white supporters out here, all different nationalities. And that's what really caught my attention," Marcel Lambert of St. Louis told St. Louis Public Radio.

Palestinian flag flown next to the Black flag.— #FergusonOctober (@MansaSharif)October 12, 2014

Following the march downtown, many protesters decamped to Ferguson and St. Louis' Shaw neighborhood, where another teen, Vonderrit Myers Jr. was shot and killed by an off-duty uniformed policeman Wednesday night. Myers' parents say their son was unarmed at the time, but police contend the boy was shot after he opened fire at the unnamed officer.

Late Saturday, demonstrators took the movement to a gas station near South Vandeventer Avenue, in symbolic acknowledgement of the QuikTrip set alight on the first day of Ferguson protests. The station in Ferguson was subsequently established as a makeshift town square where demonstrators met for days before being locked out by the owners, who secured the area with a fence.

Watch the police STEP ON peaceful protestors. Watch this group get arrested and

— deray mckesson (@deray)October 12, 2014

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As the crowd approached the station Saturday in St. Louis, they chanted slogans that have become associated with Brown's killing, including "no justice, no peace." They were met by police dressed in riot gear who arrived in trucks and large armored vehicles.

The protesters announced their intention to stage a peaceful rally, and they sat down and linked arms outside the entrance. Police began to use pepper spray to disperse them, which caught some passers by as they exited nearby bars. Arrests followed in the early hours of Sunday morning.

VICE News could not immediately reach the St. Louis Police Department for comment or details or arrests.

Despite Dotson's tweet, demonstrators deny claims they were throwing rocks.

1 white man says that we threw rocks and we spend 1,000's of tweets refuting the lie. The power of white supremacy is real y'all.— deray mckesson (@deray)October 12, 2014

At a nonviolent action training on Sunday morning, dozens of people from social justice groups from across the country gathered for training ahead of tomorrow's planned civil disobedience actions.

Teaching people non aggressive ways to get arrested. Go limp. — Alice Speri (@alicesperi)October 12, 2014

Trainer Lisa Fithian, who runs sessions like these across the country, walked people through a series of exercises, teaching demonstrators how to show support or anger, and how to cooperate with arrest or go limp for passive resistance.

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"When shit hits the fan remember to breathe, even if there's teargas," she said, adding, "I am committed to nonviolence, strategically… We can't control what they do but we can control what we do."

On Monday, a series of civil disobedience actions are expected across the city, planned in tribute to the "moral Mondays" initiatives of the civil rights movement, which had inspired so much of the Ferguson movement.

Juliette Iacovino, a graduate student in St. Louis, who was present at the recent gas station sit-in, told VICE News that police had been doing "better," and said some were "actually talking to people" before the events in Shaw unfolded Saturday night and early Sunday.

"Last night was more in line with what we saw in August, though not as over the top," Iacovino said. "They didn't use tear gas at least… but it's still too much."

Follow the authors on Twitter: @lianzifields@alicesperi