Protesters angered by the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by police faced off with officers in south St. Louis for a second night last night as accusations of racial profiling prompted calls for a federal investigation ahead of a weekend of planned rallies and civil disobedience. State and city leaders have urged the Justice Department to investigate the death of Vonderrit D. Myers, fearing he was targeted because he was black. Police say the white officer who killed Myers was returning fire, but Myers' parents say he was unarmed. After a quiet candlelight prayer vigil for Myers last night, hundreds of people joined a more rowdy gathering in the Shaw neighborhood to protest his death.
As police in riot gear lined up on the street and police helicopters buzzed above the neighborhood, some protesters burned the American flag, while others banged on drums and shouted, "This is what democracy looks like!" Officers used pepper spray to force the crowd back. Organizers say thousands of activists and protesters from around the country are expected to come to the St. Louis area for four days of rallies, marches, and civil disobedience to protest the August shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown, racial profiling, and police violence. The events, which start today and include a march tomorrow in downtown St. Louis, have taken on added urgency in the wake of Myers' death. "This is a racial powder keg," warned one of more than 20 black leaders who spoke at a news conference outside police headquarters yesterday.