FERGUSON, Mo. -- Five people, including a legal observer who said he was simply walking back to his car, were arrested outside the Ferguson Police Department Wednesday night as protesters gathered to call for the arrest of Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in August.
The officer's case is currently being reviewed by a grand jury, which must decide whether or not to indict Wilson by January 2015, though a decision expected within the next several weeks. Amid rampant speculation that the jury will side with Wilson, protesters on site predicted more turmoil in Ferguson in the event of an acquittal.
Authorities estimated that about 200 people gathered outside the Police Department Wednesday. The crowd was largely peaceful, though some members of the crowd knocked over barricades that had been set up to block access to the department's parking lot. A St. Louis County Police spokesman said that when officers attempted to clear the lot, they were "immediately pelted with rocks and bottles." Over the course of the night, a total of five officers were assailed by rocks, bottles and a metal rod, but no injuries were reported, the spokesman said.
Some of the demonstrators also forced crews from CNN and local news station KMOV Channel 4 to leave the area.
Protesters yelled chants like “If we don’t get it, shut it down,” while others took to freestyle rapping about justice and religion. Demonstrators carried signs calling for Wilson's arrest, and Wilson's face was even projected on a building across from the police station.
The legal observer who was arrested, Mike Wazowski, was affiliated with the National Lawyers Guild's Legal Observer program. Wazowski said on Twitter that he was returning to his car when he was put under arrest.
Wednesday's crowd was larger than it has been on other nights because many had gathered in connection with a national day of protests against police brutality.
Many of the demonstrators discussed the leaked information that has emerged in recent days about the events leading up to Brown's shooting. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Wednesday on an autopsy conducted by the St. Louis County examiner, which showed that Brown was in close proximity to Wilson when the officer shot him in the hand. This could support the officer's claim that Brown was going after Wilson's weapon during their initial confrontation. The Washington Post reported the same day that seven or eight black witnesses, who have not spoken publicly, gave testimony before the grand jury that largely supported Wilson's account.
The Department of Justice has condemned the leaks. The Justice Department has launched a separate federal civil rights investigation into Brown's death, along with the FBI, and is also conducting a broader probe of the practices of the Ferguson Police Department.
Several supporters of Michael Brown who attended Wednesday's protests told The Huffington Post they believed the information about the grand jury was being released to prepare the public for a possible ruling in favor of Wilson.
“It’s not a surprise that they’ve leaked the information," said 23-year-old Ben Teter, a retail worker from O’Fallon, Missouri. "To me, it seems like they released things on purpose, unfortunately, to downplay Mike Brown and make him seem like a bad guy.”
“I think the information was released to strategically to support Darren Wilson," said Bryan Buck, 24, a St. Louis University medical student from the small town of Marshall, Missouri.
Jaleah Williams, 26, a grad student from St. Louis, said it’s been hard for residents of the area to trust police, especially in the wake of Brown’s death.
“Ferguson and St. Louis will be in a state of emergency if Wilson is not indicted. If he’s not indicted, Ferguson will never be same," Williams said. "At the end of the day, the amount of times Wilson shot Mike Brown was excessive. So, if no charges come down, that’s saying it’s okay for police to kill our kids."
But Nick Walker, 38, an engineer technician who lives in Ferguson, felt the large crowd that gathered Wednesday night showed that the new evidence was not swaying Brown's supporters. "None of the new evidence mattered after I heard the audio of the shots fired,” Walker said.
Sherry Moore, 42, a dietary cook from Ferguson, said the newly leaked information does not discourage her because she believes much of it involves speculation.
“Until we find out exactly what the grand jury decides to do, nothing bothers me. I think that some protesters are bothered by the leaks, it gets some angrier. I think the leaks tried to stir up problems,” Moore said.
This article has been updated with additional information on the expected timeline for the grand jury's decision.