FERGUSON, United States: Protest marches sprang up in cities across the United States on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila), as a huge security operation stifled clashes in Ferguson, the town at the center of the country’s latest racially-charged riots.
Violent unrest erupted in the St. Louis suburb for a second night, after Monday’s (Tuesday in Manila) decision by a grand jury not to prosecute a white police officer for shooting dead an unarmed black teenager.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said the National Guard force in the Ferguson area had been tripled to more than 2,000 troops to back up officers’ beleaguered local police force.
A St, Louis police patrol car was burned by protesters and the force declared the demonstration an “illegal gathering,” warning marchers and journalists alike that they faced arrest.
Meanwhile, armed Missouri National Guard troopers sealed off West Florissant, the road running through Ferguson that was the scene of the worst looting and arson on Monday night after the verdict was announced.
At the Ferguson police station, riot police dispersed around 100 protesters chanting and waving placards, including one that read: “We will not be silenced.”
The crowd fell back towards Ferguson city hall, where a patrol car was set on fire and riot officers fired tear gas and deployed imposing armored personnel carriers to regain control.
Crowds were smaller than they had been on Monday. But masked agitators on the fringes of the demonstration clashed with police and there were reports of looting at a pharmacy four blocks away.
“Lives and property must be protected. This community deserves to have peace,” Governor Nixon said, as anger mounted nationwide.
Meanwhile, thousands of marchers snaked along streets and freeways, disrupting traffic on bridges and in tunnels in New York City —leading to a number of arrests.
A peaceful crowd took to the streets in Washington outside the White House.
Similar angry but largely peaceful protests sprang up in cities large and small, from Oakland and Seattle on the west coast to Atlanta, Philadelphia and Baltimore in the east.
In sprawling Los Angeles, 500 people, a racially-mixed crowd including families and children, marched on police headquarters. In Portland and Denver police reportedly resorted to pepper spray.
CNN reported that gatherings large and small had been reported in 170 communities nationwide.
US President Barack Obama called for rioters to be prosecuted, but acknowledged the deep-rooted frustrations of minorities who feel they are unfairly treated by police.