Police in Ferguson, Missouri, arrested 35 people on Wednesday for planning to shut down a highway outside the town in protest of the shooting death of Michael Brown. Protesters had planned to block Interstate 70 to express their anger over the slow-moving investigation into the death of Brown, who was shot dead by officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9.
The blockade reportedly failed as police officials arrived at the site in riot gear and kept demonstrators away from the highway. The protesters had reportedly hoped to persuade Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to appoint a special prosecutor to review the death of the 18-year-old black teenager. Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Al Nothum said that most of those arrested face charges of unlawful assembly, while four have been charged with assault on a law enforcement officer, after protesters threw rocks, bricks and bottles at the police.
"Attempting to block an interstate highway is unsafe and unacceptable. ... People trying to shut down I-70 would not only create a very serious hazard for themselves, but also for motorists simply trying to get home from school or work," Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said before the protest, according to KMOV, a local news network.
The attempt to blockade the highway, which runs most of the country's breadth from Maryland to Utah and passes near Ferguson, came a day after tensions gripped the town, which held its first city council meeting since Brown's death.
Ferguson, a predominantly black town had witnessed days of protests, which sometimes turned violent, following Brown’s shooting death by a white police officer. The incident triggered a federal inquiry and a grand jury is also hearing evidence in the case, which will determine if Wilson will be charged in Brown’s death.
Brown’s family attorney Anthony Gray, reportedly said during a news conference on Tuesday: “Darren Wilson should be arrested, booked, fingerprinted and photographed.”
Nixon has reportedly been criticized for not speeding up the investigation into Brown’s shooting. Protesters have also criticized Nixon’s decision of not removing St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch from the case despite concerns he might be biased toward the department. Many of McCulloch's family members have reportedly served with the St. Louis Police Department, while his father was killed in the line of duty.
"It is going to cause people some discomfort, it is going to cause inconvenience to people," Eric Vickers, one of the organizers of the Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition, told the Riverfront Times before the highway protest. "That is a small price to pay to change the conditions for African American youth, and it is a very small price to pay to bring justice to Michael Brown. The Wednesday civil-disobedience action will be the start of a direct action campaign that will continue and will escalate until our demands are met."