FERGUSON, Mo. (Reuters) - Tensions eased in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson on Thursday after two nights of violence and looting sparked by racially charged anger over a grand jury’s decision not to charge a white police officer for fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager.
Protests also dwindled elsewhere in the United States as the Thanksgiving Day holiday and wintry weather kept many indoors. In California, about 500 people were arrested in rallies on Tuesday and Wednesday that shut highways in major cities.
In New York, where protesters had said on social media they would disrupt the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade through Manhattan on Thursday, at least seven people were arrested during the event, said New York Police Detective Annette Markowski.
Details on the arrests, including the charges, were not immediately available, she said.
Ferguson became the focal point of a national debate on race relations after officer Darren Wilson shot dead Michael Brown on Aug. 9. The U.S. Justice Department is probing possible civil rights abuses, and President Barack Obama has called for reflection on the difficulties minorities face in the country.
Police said two people were arrested in overnight protests in Ferguson and no major incidents were reported. The grand jury’s decision on Monday not to charge Wilson sparked protests in Ferguson, and more than 100 people were taken into custody on Monday and Tuesday nights. Buildings were torched, stores were looted and police in riot gear used tear gas to disperse crowds.
At a Thanksgiving service at the Greater St. Mark Family Church, which has been a gathering point for protesters and religious leaders, many offered appreciation for their blessings after a tumultuous week.
“We live in a country of laws. But there has to be a law that governs us all,” said pastor Tommie Pierson.
Ferguson is a predominantly black city where almost all of the political leaders and police are white.
In an area around the police department that has seen some of the worst violence, a different scene emerged on Thursday. With no protesters in sight and a minimal police presence on a sunny but chilly day, local residents boarded up stores to patch up broken windows and protect windows still intact.
Some, including families, painted murals on the plywood boarding while passing cars honked in support.
In Los Angeles, a city rocked by racial violence in 1992 after the acquittal of white police officers in the beating of black motorist Rodney King, about 145 protesters were arrested on Wednesday evening. Most were taken into custody for failing to disperse, police spokesman Commander Andrew Smith said on Thursday.
Protesters could walk out of jail if they posted $500 bond. For those who could not afford it, officials may make an exception for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend by allowing them out if they promise to appear in court, he said.
The latest arrests brought to more than 300 the total number of people taken into custody in Los Angeles in demonstrations related to the grand jury’s decision. About 170 have been arrested in protests in Oakland.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, who declared a state of emergency before the grand jury decision, has deployed about 2,200 National Guard troops to the Ferguson area to quell violence.
Wilson, who was placed on administrative leave, has said he acted in self-defence, out of fear for his life, when he shot Brown. Brown’s family said he acted with malice and should stand trial.
Additional reporting by Emily Flitter in Ferguson, Alex Dobuzinskis and Daina Beth Solomon in Los Angeles, Emmett Berg in Oakland, Zachary Goelman in San Diego and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Writing by Jon Herskovitz and Steve Gorman; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Cynthia Osterman and Frances Kerry