Mass Arrests at California Ferguson Protests

Police face off against protesters before making mass arrests in Los Angeles, Calif., following Monday's grand jury decision in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., on Nov. 26, 2014. Lucy Nicholson/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. But in California, about 500 people were arrested in rallies over the past two days that shut highways in major cites.

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 angry protests, and more than 100 people were taken into custody on Monday and Tuesday nights as buildings were torched and stores looted, with police in riot gear using tear gas to disperse crowds.

A mall but spirited congregation assembled at the Greater St. Mark Family Church, a gathering point for protesters and religious leaders, for a Thanksgiving service where many offered appreciation for their blessings after a tumultuous week.

"My prayers go out to the Brown family. My prayers also go out to the Wilson family," said pastor Tommie Pierson. "We live in a country of laws. But there has to be a law that governs us all."

Ferguson is a predominantly black city where almost all of the political leaders and police are white.

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.

The latest arrests bring 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 Oakland protests.

In New York, protesters outraged over the Ferguson decision said on social media they would disrupt the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade through Manhattan. 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.

Overseas, protesters held up banners reading "Solidarity with Ferguson" and "Black Lives Matter" outside the U.S. Embassy in London.

In Ferguson, businesses were boarded-up or burned along a mile-long stretch of West Florissant Avenue, which bore the brunt of Monday's lawlessness, and downtown streets between the police department and City Hall.

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-defense, out of fear for his life, when he shot Brown. Brown's family said he acted with malice and should stand trial.