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After Ferguson, protests across country disrupt business as usual

The rallies have been ongoing but have grown more peaceful as they target weekend shoppers

Disrupting commerce, transit and traffic became focal points for protesters across the country days after the announcement that a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri declined to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown.

As Small Business Saturday approached, numerous storefronts in the Ferguson area had their windows covered with plywood with messages painted across many of them letting neighbors know that the shops are still open.

Demonstrators temporarily shut down three malls in suburban St. Louis on Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year and then marched in front of the Ferguson police department to protest the decision.

Several stores lowered their security doors or locked entrances as at least 200 protesters sprawled onto the floor while chanting, "Stop shopping and join the movement," at the Galleria mall in Richmond Heights a few miles south of Ferguson, Missouri, where Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Brown, who was unarmed, in August.

The action prompted authorities to close the mall for about an hour Friday afternoon, while a similar protest of about 50 people had the same effect at West County Mall in nearby Des Peres. And several dozen demonstrators led to a temporary closure of the Chesterfield Mall.

Later Friday night, a group of about 100 protesters marched down West Florissant Avenue Florissant in front of the city's police and fire departments chanting, blocking traffic and stopping in front of some businesses.

"I served my country. I spent four years in the Army, and I feel like that's not what I served my country for," said Ebonie Tyse, 26, of St. Louis as National Guard trucks and police cruisers roamed the street in front of her. "I served my country for justice for everyone. Not because of what color, what age, what gender or anything," she said.

In total, 16 people were arrested in the area, according to St. Louis County Police Department media relations officer Shawn McGuire. He said charges would include peace disturbance and impeding the flow of traffic, and two people would be charged with resisting arrest and one with assault. Of the 16 people who were arrested on Friday evening, only one was from the St. Louis area, according to McGuire.

The rallies have been ongoing but have grown more peaceful this week, as protesters turn their attention to disrupting commerce. In Chicago, New York, Seattle and the Bay Area — where protesters chained themselves to trains — were among the largest in the country on Black Friday.

In Oakland, more than a dozen people were arrested after about 125 protesters wearing T-shirts that read "Black Lives Matter" interrupted rail service from Oakland to San Francisco, with some chaining themselves to trains. Later in San Francisco, a march by hundreds turned ugly as protesters smashed windows and hurled bottles and other objects at police, leaving two officers injured. Police responded by making arrests but have not said how many. Dozens of people in Seattle blocked streets, and police said some protesters also apparently chained doors shut at the nearby Pacific Place shopping center.

In Chicago, about 200 people gathered near the city's popular Magnificent Mile shopping district, where Kristiana Colon, 28, called Friday "a day of awareness and engagement." She's a member of the Let Us Breathe Collective, which has been taking supplies such as gas masks to protesters in Ferguson.

"We want them to think twice before spending that dollar today," she said of shoppers. "As long as black lives are put second to materialism, there will be no peace."

Malcolm London, a leader in the Black Youth Project 100, which has been organizing Chicago protests, said the group was also trying to rally support for other issues, such as more transparency from Chicago police.

"We are not indicting a man. We are indicting a system," London told the crowd.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Friday announced that he will call a special session of the General Assembly to provide funding for public safety efforts related to protests, at which numerous protesters and bystanders were wounded.

On Tuesday, Dornella Conners lost her left eye while sitting in her vehicle with her boyfriend, De’Angelas Lee, after police fired a bean bag round at a gas station in north St. Louis County. Conners said that as she and her boyfriend were driving away from the station, police blocked them from exiting. Police said the officer, fearing for his safety as Connners’s car approached, fired and caused the front passenger window to shatter, according to St. Louis news website KMOV.com. They also arrested sixteen people at the site, and issued a warrant for Lee, setting a bond for $50,000.

A news release from Nixon's office said that due to the increased presence of the State Highway Patrol and the Missouri National Guard in the region, the state's financial obligations for emergency duties are on track to exceed what had been appropriated.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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