ST. LOUIS (AP) — Three people arrested during a protest days after Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson have been cleared of wrongdoing.
St. Louis County Judge Joseph Dueker issued a ruling this week acquitting Keith Rose, Michael Lhotak and Jasmine Woods. All three were arrested at a prayer vigil outside the Ferguson police station on Aug. 11, 2014, and charged with failure to comply with an order to disperse.
Their arrests came two days after Brown, who was black and unarmed, was fatally shot in a confrontation with white Ferguson officer Darren Wilson. The officer was not charged and resigned in November 2014.
The shooting sparked several protests, including some that turned violent, and was a catalyst for the national Black Lives Matter movement. Hundreds of people were arrested during the Ferguson protests, and many cases are still pending.
Brown’s shooting prompted a U.S. Department of Justice investigation that found racial bias and abuse in Ferguson’s criminal justice system.
The legal group ArchCity Defenders, which represented all three of the protesters for free, said the charges were unwarranted, with Ferguson prosecutors unable to produce a single witness or any other evidence that a crime was committed.
“To me, the way Ferguson handled this matter, from the arrest to the prosecution, is evidence of the racist and predatory practices that the citizens of Ferguson told us about,” Lhotak said in a statement.
The police response to demonstrations drew stern criticism during the Ferguson protests, especially in the first few weeks after the shooting. Critics contended police use of tear gas and military-style vehicles was unwarranted. Many of those arrested have contended they were doing nothing beyond their legal right to make their voice heard.
Messages seeking comment Friday from Ferguson’s city attorney, Stephanie Karr, were not immediately returned. Karr defended the prosecution in an email to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, writing that “the public interest is served by taking action to prevent further violations of the law by making offenders accountable.”