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Gov. Parson activates National Guard to respond to protests

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Gov. Mike Parson activated the Missouri National Guard on Saturday evening to help respond to protests around the state that he described as creating hazards to safety, welfare and property that are beyond the abilities of local authorities to manage.

But St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and state Rep. Raychel Proudie, a Democrat from Ferguson, urged Parson not to send the guard members to the St. Louis area. They said nothing in the community was being destroyed, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Page said he had spoken to the county’s police chief, who assured him that local law enforcement would be able to maintain safety.

Protests continued Saturday in the St. Louis area, in Kansas City and elsewhere in the state in response to the death of George Floyd after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee onto Floyd’s neck during an arrest.

In Kansas City, five people were arrested in Saturday evening protests in and near the Country Club Plaza shopping and entertainment district, the Kansas City Star reported. Mayor Quinton Lucas had earlier told reporters that he knew there was a lot of pain in the community and nation and called on the hundreds gathered near the Plaza to think about change and to protest peacefully.

Local media reported that police used tear gas to force protesters out of streets and onto sidewalks in the Plaza area. The Plaza managers announced earlier in the day that the shops and restaurants in the district would close Saturday afternoon and remain closed Sunday because of planned protests.

On the other side of the state, the Post-Dispatch reported about 500 people were protesting peacefully Saturday evening in Ferguson, where 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in 2014. The resulting protests strengthened the fledgling Black Lifes Matter movement. Protesters marched in other St. Louis-area communities earlier in the day.

On Friday night, protesters blocked Interstate 44 in downtown St. Louis, set a fire in the road and broke into trucks.

Protesters blocked I-44 for nearly three hours after taking to the streets Friday night, the Post-Dispatch reported. One protester died after climbing between two trailers of a FedEx truck and was killed when it drove away. Police said they were investigating.

The crowd dispersed after a few gunshots were fired. Police did not report any arrests.

In Kansas City, police used pepper spray on people marching through its Westport bar-and-entertainment district Friday night and Saturday morning, The Star reported.

Kansas City Police Capt. David Jackson said the pepper spray was used on about 50 “non-lawful protesters” about 1 a.m. Saturday in order to disperse them. Jackson said some in the crowd had thrown rocks and bottles, shattered three business windows and damaged police cars.

At least five people were arrested for offenses such as disorderly conduct, Jackson said.

Benny Cardella, the owner of a hair-styling shop, said that barber tools were taken from his business after the front window was broken but that more valuable TVs and artwork were not removed.

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