By Carey Gillam
(Reuters) - A meeting aimed at easing tensions between blacks and police in St. Louis erupted into a brawl on Wednesday night, underscoring the ongoing anger that persists in the area after the August police killing of an unarmed black teen.
The meeting, held at St. Louis City Hall by the Public Safety Committee of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, was focused on seeking public comment for how and why a proposed civilian review board should provide oversight for police.
But, according to some attendees, many in the crowd of roughly 70 people grew upset about some comments made by police officers opposed to the review board. A police union official who was wearing a wristband supporting Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson further antagonized some in the crowd, according to the reports.
"It seemed he was intentionally trying to provoke people," said Rasheen Aldridge, a member of a separate citizen's commission formed to address racial tensions in Ferguson, who attended the meeting.
Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Aug. 9. Brown was unarmed and the killing sparked months of protests.
A local prosecutor declined to file charges against Wilson, and a grand jury that reviewed the case did not indict the officer. Yet Brown's death is one of many examples cited by protesters in several U.S. cities who say there is widespread mistreatment of minorities by police.
Tensions were high from the outset of the meeting Wednesday night, attendees said. The meeting was halted when people began yelling and shoving each other. Videos that appear to show Jeff Roorda, business manager of the St. Louis Police Officer's Association, pushing a black woman in the crowd were circulating on the Internet and social media Thursday.
"Roorda was charging toward the front and a young lady who was trying to exit was caught in his way," said St. Louis Alderman Chris Carter, who was helping oversee the meeting. "That is when it went all downhill."
Roorda did not respond to requests for comment, but he said in an interview with a local television station that the woman was trying to block his way and he did not shove her.
Protesters have been calling for reforms in both the leadership and the practices of police in the St. Louis area.
St. Louis police spokesman Schron Jackson said no arrests were made and no injuries reported but multiple complaints have been filed and police are investigating.
(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Editing by Susan Heavey and Eric Beech)