Brawl erupts at Missouri meeting over black teen killing case

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 29, 2015 10:18 AM

By Carey Gillam

(Reuters) - A meeting aimed at easing tensions between blacks and police in St. Louis erupted into a brawl Wednesday night, underscoring the ongoing anger that persists in the area after the August police killing of an unarmed black teen.

The meeting, held at St. Louis City Hall, was focused on seeking public comment for how and why a civilian review board should provide oversight for police.

But, according to some attendees, many in the crowd of roughly 70 people grew upset by some comments made by police officers opposed to the review board. A police union official who was seen wearing a wristband supporting Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson further antagonized some in the crowd, according to the reports.

"It seemed he was intentionally trying to provoke people," said Rasheen Aldridge, a member of a separate citizen's commission formed to address racial tensions in Ferguson, who attended the meeting Monday night.

Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Aug. 9. Brown was unarmed and the killing sparked months of protests. His death is one of many examples cited by protesters in several U.S. cities who say there is widespread mistreatment of minorities by police.

The meeting was halted early when people began yelling and pushing and shoving each other, and some rushed to exit the packed room, according to reports.

Jerryl Christmas, a defense attorney who has been representing some people protesting Brown's shooting but was not at the meeting, said the disruption underscores how high tensions remain in the St. Louis area.

Protesters have called for the ouster of the Ferguson police chief, the Ferguson mayor and the county prosecutor.

"The tension is going to continue until we are going to get some change," Christmas said. "People want to believe that things have settled down but with all these people still in positions of power we can't move forward with the healing process. The knife is still in our back."

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch declined to file charges against Wilson in the killing and a grand jury also declined to indict the officer.

A spokesman for St. Louis police did not respond to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam; Editing by Susan Heavey)