Ferguson braces for protests on anniversary of Michael Brown shooting

Activists held a small rally in Ferguson as the city braces for protests on anniversary of Michael Brown shooting.

FERGUSON, MISSOURI, UNITED STATES (AUGUST 7, 2015) (NBC) – Several dozen demonstrators rallied on Friday (August 7) in Ferguson, Missouri, one year after the police shooting of an unarmed black teen thrust the city into the national spotlight, as the St. Louis suburb braces for a weekend of protests over continued complaints of police violence.

Civil rights activists, religious leaders and others from around the United States are converging on the mostly black community of about 21,000 to commemorate the life and death of 18-year-old Michael Brown and call for improvements in relations with police.

The events, many organized by Brown’s father, include marches, concerts and a moment of silence at midday on Sunday on the street where Brown was killed on August 9, 2014.

A local church held a “de-escalation” training session on Sunday to prepare for potential clashes between protesters and police this weekend.

Brown’s death sparked months of sometimes violent protests both in Ferguson and around the United States following subsequent police killings of unarmed black men in several other cities. It also spurred the “Black Lives Matter” movement that has cast a spotlight on long-troubled relations between police and minority residents of many U.S. cities.

A year after rioters burned a convenience store and hurled rocks and gasoline bombs at police, who responded with teargas and rubber bullets, the Chosen for Change foundation founded by Brown’s family is planning what it calls a weekend of “positive and peaceful” events.

Area law enforcement leaders say they also want a peaceful weekend and have been meeting with protest groups to discuss strategies to make sure that is the case, said Ferguson city spokesman Jeff Small. The Ferguson police force of 50 will be fully staffed this weekend and will have the help of the much larger St. Louis County police force, he said.

Ferguson’s police came under heavy criticism for their militarized response to last August’s protests, when they used heavy armored vehicles, dogs and noise cannons on crowds of protesters, at times escalating the violence in Ferguson’s streets.

That response prompted U.S. President Barack Obama in May to require U.S. police departments to provide additional justification for using heavy equipment such as armored military-style vehicles and riot shields.