Black Friday turns to protests
SEATTLE -- Black Friday turned into a day of protests at malls across the country after a grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson earlier this week.
Protesters in a St. Louis mall blocked shoppers and forced some stores to close. In Seattle, demonstrators forced Westlake Mall to close early on the busiest shopping day of the year and tried to disrupt the city's traditional tree lighting ceremony.
"While I understand the hurt and frustration that our city has experienced in the past days, this is a city that respects the rule of law," Seattle Mayor Ed Murray wrote in a statement. "I support the First Amendment rights of protesters, but violence against property or police officers will not be tolerated in our city."
Hundreds of protesters targeted Westlake and Pacific Place malls in downtown Seattle; however, security guards could not keep the doors closed, nor the protesters out.
Crowds of demonstrators marched in, past the holiday decorations and Black Friday shoppers, taking over escalators and eventually the fourth floor of Pacific Place, yelling down into the courtyard. Protesters at one point staged a "die-in," lying down on a floor inside the Westlake Center mall.
March leader Marissa Johnson explained: "America goes where their pocketbook goes, so today we're blocking Black Friday. We want you to be uncomfortable shopping."
Demonstrators marched through holiday traffic, blocked intersections and shut down light rail service to Westlake station. Some protesters moved the demonstration to the edge of the Capitol Hill neighborhood, where they clashed with police officers.
Both officers and demonstrators used pepper spray, police said. Some protesters wore gas masks.
Later, the city's traditional Christmas lighting ceremony at Westlake started early after protesters surrounded the area and began rallying. Police turned out in force, arresting five people and prompting the mall to close several hours early.
Police said the arrests included people accused of assaulting officers and damaging an officer's bicycle.
After the tree lighting, the mayor and Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole visited with young carolers who were interrupted by protesters, the mayor's office said.