Activists rushed into St. Louis City Hall on Wednesday to protest a grand jury decision not to indict a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in nearby Ferguson as the region moved into its third day of demonstrations.
Hundreds of people demonstrated in front of the municipal building, shouting “Shame! Shame!” Some then entered the building and police, carrying riot shields, quickly responded.
As many as five people were arrested, officials said.
Groups were protesting the decision by the grand jury not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Michael Brown, 18, on Aug. 9. The shooting led to weeks of protests over the summer and Monday’s announcement of the grand jury’s action has led to more protests.
Authorities have raised the arrest total from the second night of protests over the grand jury decision to 58.
St. Louis County police said early Wednesday that 45 people were arrested overnight in Ferguson, which was much calmer than during the first night of protests in which several businesses and vehicles were burned. Seven of those arrested face felony charges, including four for allegedly assaulting an officer and three for armed criminal action.
Thirteen people were arrested at protests in St. Louis on Tuesday night, including one for felony assaulting an officer.
Heightened security overnight on Tuesday appeared to have tamped down the violence that afflicted Ferguson with arson and looting. Other cities across the nation – including New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Portland and Dallas – recovered from largely peaceful demonstrations.
But the war of words over the shooting escalated Wednesday.
Wilson said in a television interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that he feared for his life when he fatally shot Brown. Wilson said that there was nothing he could have done differently and that he would have shot a white person in the same circumstances. Wilson also disputed witness accounts that Brown at one point put his hands up in the air.
In part of the interview, which aired Wednesday on “Good Morning America,” Wilson also said his wife, whom he married last month, was pregnant.
In appearances on NBC and CBS, Brown’s parents sharply disagreed with Wilson’s version of his confrontation with her son.
“I don’t believe a word of it,” Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, said on “CBS This Morning.”
“I know my son far too well to – he would never do anything like that. He would never provoke anyone to do anything to him and he wouldn’t do anything to anybody. I don’t believe a word of it,” she said.
Wilson told the grand jury that Brown had reached into the police car and grabbed the officer’s gun.
Wilson’s account “sounds crazy,” Michael Brown Sr. said on NBC’s “Today” program.
“For one, my son, he respected law enforcement,” Brown said. “Two, who in their right mind would rush or charge at a police officer that has his gun drawn? It sounds crazy.”
Wilson said that Brown had a “crazy” look on his face and that he looked like “a demon” before Wilson shot him.
“When you have people of color being killed, they try to demonize and play on the stereotypes, and they try to put the police officer who killed our children on a pedestal,” Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump said on NBC. “It’s just not right, and we have to fix this system.”
The Brown family has not ruled out filing a wrongful-death suit. The federal government is conducting its own investigation of the incident.
Instead of ending the dispute over the shooting, the grand jury’s decision moved the debate into other venues while sparking violence in Ferguson, despite calls for peace from authorities and the Brown family.
On Monday night, police seemed to be caught off-guard by the size and vehemence of the protests that led to the arrests of more than 80 people in the St. Louis area. Fires damaged or destroyed 21 buildings, and 10 police cars were destroyed. Businesses were looted, protesters fired an estimated 150 gunshots and police used tear gas to disperse crowds.
On Tuesday night, the level of violence diminished, in part because authorities tripled the size of the National Guard contingent to more than 2,000, who joined hundreds of police officers working extra shifts.
Even as the number of arrests fell in Ferguson, protests in about a dozen U.S. cities erupted. Roads in some cities were blocked. In Minnesota, a motorist drove through a protest line, injuring a demonstrator.
More than 180 people were arrested in Los Angeles, where smaller protests continued Wednesday. That brought the two-day total to nearly 200.
At least 10 demonstrators were arrested in New York, seven in Dallas, seven in Portland, Ore., and 21 in Atlanta.
Wilson, who remains on paid administrative leave from the Ferguson Police Department, told ABC that his life has been stressful since the shooting. He said he even grew a beard to hide his identity.
“You’re always looking, you’re always wondering if someone’ll recognize you, if someone is following you. Just every possibility you can think of,” Wilson said.
Wilson said it is unclear if he can return to the Ferguson department.
“I’m not sure it’s possible. I mean, you think they would accept me? You think it’d be safe for me?” Wilson asked.