ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI - Demonstrators disrupted one of the biggest shopping days of the year in St. Louis, Missouri, this Friday as they protested this week's decision by a grand jury not to indict a white police officer who shot an unarmed black teenager in nearby Ferguson after a street confrontation. The shooting of Michael Brown has sparked protests across the US.
Nationwide, activists angry that a white police officer was not charged in the killing of Brown disrupted one of the busiest shopping days of the year to draw parallels with racial inequality.
"Yeah, the tradition of killing black unarmed men that's gone on and on and on. That's the tradition we're disrupting," said one of the demonstrators.
The protesters briefly shut down stores in at least two malls near Ferguson. Elsewhere, as many as 200 people demonstrated near Chicago's famed Water Tower, urging shoppers not to spend money as a show of solidarity with people in Ferguson, and protesters in New York descended upon the city's flagship Macy's store and temporarily blocked traffic.
Demonstrators had interrupted shopping overnight at some stores in the Ferguson area. Dozens of people, beginning Thursday on the Thanksgiving holiday and continuing into the night, had gone to Walmart and Target stores, chanting as police officers watched.
Protesters at the St. Louis Galleria Mall staged a "die-in." Dozens of them lay on the floor to represent Brown's dead body. Holding banners saying "Black Lives Matter," they chanted "Indict, convict, send the killer cops to jail. The whole damn system is guilty as hell."
As their numbers grew, police and mall authorities shut down shops and cleared the area.
The protests shut would-be shoppers out of the Galleria. Amber Alexander came all the way from Chicago to shop at the mall.
"They're saying they're not gonna open it back up, so it was a waste of a trip, I guess, you know," she said.
Workers, shoppers interrupted
Victoria Tinsley already had spent $183 on skin-care products and was planning to spend more. “I probably would have spent another $200 or $250 bucks probably, depending on how many hours I spent here. I'm probably just gonna head off now because all the stores are closed,” she said.
The Friday after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday in America, is the beginning of the holiday shopping season, and traditionally stores offer deep discounts. The chance to save money was why Winfred Pippins was there.
"I was depending on some of the sales to get some shopping done so it's going to kinda hurt my pocket a little bit," said Pippins.
The stores opened a few hours later and the protesters moved on to the West County Mall.
Ashley Hill works at a mall. She said as a young African American, she understands the frustrations of the protesters, but disagrees with their tactics.
"People do need our jobs and people do need things necessary to do with money, so people closing down the mall and looting and starting a riot is not really helping us, and [is] making our community even worse," said Hill.
On Saturday, demonstrators will start an almost 200-kilometer, seven-day march from Brown's home in Ferguson to the governor's mansion in Jefferson city to continue their protest.
Residents of Ferguson and others who wanted to help came out on Thanksgiving to clean up the debris left from the violence and looting that followed Monday's announcement that Wilson would not be indicted. The unrest left dozens of buildings damaged or burned.
Brown's death inflamed tensions in Ferguson and raised concerns about police violence and racial discrimination in the mostly black city.
Wilson, who said he feared for his life during the confrontation with Brown, told reporters Tuesday that he had a clean conscience "because I know I did my job right."
Brown's family said Wilson acted with malice and should stand trial.
Protesters across the country have used the case to highlight similar instances in which they say laws are not applied fairly toward African-Americans.
The U.S. Justice Department is probing possible civil rights abuses in the Ferguson shooting. President Barack Obama has called for reflection on the difficulties minorities face in the country.