Several hundred demonstrators halted traffic in Georgetown and Chinatown and outside a Northern Virginia shopping mall Saturday to protest the death of Michael Brown and a decision by a Missouri grand jury not to indict the police officer who shot him.
“Black lives matter. Stop police brutality,” read a sign carried by Renee Campbell, 27, a Howard University graduate student who came with two of her friends.
Campbell said she hoped to draw attention to the broader implications of the case and spur discussion among all quarters of society.
“We still need to have this conversation — about police brutality and racial biases that we hold and that we perpetuate,” Campbell said.
Protesters met at the Foggy Bottom Metro station around noon. They walked and chanted into the middle of Georgetown, returned to Foggy Bottom, then took the Metro to Virginia to protest inside and outside the mall at Pentagon City.
D.C. and Arlington police officers said they monitored the protests and protected the demonstrators from traffic. Some demonstrators then traveled back into the District and protested near the Verizon Center in Chinatown and north into the Shaw neighborhood, according to police.
A D.C. police spokesman, Lt. Sean Conboy, estimated that several hundred people participated in the protests in Georgetown. He said no arrests were reported there.
On Monday, the grand jury in Missouri declined to indict officer Darren Wilson, touching off demonstrations around the country. Protesters again gathered in streets on Friday, tying their demonstrations to the Black Friday shopping day.
More protests are planned in the coming days in states, including Massachusetts, Mississippi and Texas, according to the Ferguson National Response Network Tumblr page.
“The justice system is just not fair to us — on every level, from the courtroom to the streets,” said Collette Harris, 28, who is African American, grew up in suburban Seattle and protested Saturday in the District.
Harris said she is tired of people blaming the way people dress — baggy pants, for example — for how police approach them. Harris said that her father, a military veteran, factory worker and regular dresser, was followed around for more than 20 years by police simply because of the color of his skin.
“For me, it’s personal,” said Harris, who went to the protest on Saturday with a sign that had a drawing of Brown’s tombstone, surrounded by the words: “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”
The protests, she said, caused motorists and pedestrians to stop and think. “The goal was to kind of disrupt business as usual,” she said.
Banners held by protesters read: “Stop Racist Police Terror” and “BLACK LIVES Matter.” One woman held a large pink heart with the message: “DISARM THE POLICE! JUSTICE FOR MIKE BROWN.”
On the Metro, protesters recorded Vines of themselves marching through trains headed to Pentagon City. They filed through a Macy’s and circled the central courtyard of the Pentagon City mall holding aloft signs.
At one point, some of the protesters got on the floor of a food court for a “die-in,” staying there 4
Protesters filed outside to an intersection and lay in the road, blocking traffic with another die-in. Some linked arms, a line of people stretched across South Hayes Street, shouting, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” and “I’ve got my hands on my head, please don’t shoot me dead!”
Lt. Kip Malcolm, a spokesman for the Arlington County Police Department, estimated the crowd to be about 200 inside the mall and said that fewer than 100 lay down in the road. Police briefly shut down a nearby exit ramp of Interstate 395.
The crowd walked across the street, where they tried to enter Best Buy but were stopped by store officials, Malcolm said. Protest leaders told police they wanted to lie in the road for 4 1 / 2 minutes, so police officers blocked off the roadway to allow them to do that.
As they passed officers watching the crowd, a man yelled, “F--- the police!”
After the time had elapsed, the protesters didn’t move on, so police asked the state police to close off the I-395 ramp in case the crowd moved that way, Malcolm said.
There was one tense incident, when someone in the crowd said a white man in a blue car had used the “n-word” to a black protester. Malcolm said officers said they had not heard any racial epithets used and that two teenagers were in the back of the car, crying. Officers helped the car get out of the area.
From Virginia, protesters returned to D.C. and continued their demonstrations in the city.