Protests over police shootings block roads in US cities

BATON ROUGE: Protests against the shootings of two black men by police officers shut down main arteries of in a number of US cities on Saturday, but remained mostly peaceful with the exception of a scuffle with riot police in Baton Rouge.

Undeterred by heightened concerns about safety at protests after a lone gunman killed five police officers in Dallas Thursday night, organizers went ahead with marches in the biggest metropolis, New York City, and Washington DC, the nation's capital, among other cities.

It was the third straight day of widespread protests after the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, 37, by police in Baton Rouge on Tuesday and the death of Philando Castile, 32, on Wednesday night in a St. Paul, Minnesota suburb.

The most recent shooting deaths by police come after several years of contentious killings by law enforcement officers, including that of Michael Brown, a teenager whose death in the summer of 2014 caused riots and weeks of protests in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson.

Hundreds of protesters marched through Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon without incident, though they were prevented by police from entering a music festival underway in the city. Early in the evening, protesters shut down I-94, a major thoroughfare linking the Twin Cities.

A march in Baton Rouge saw scuffles between riot police and Black Panther activists, several of whom were carrying shotguns as Louisiana law allows for weapons to be carried openly. A police spokesman said several arrests were made and two weapons recovered during the confrontation.

After a short standoff, protesters carried on with their march. A separate rally took place at the Louisiana state capitol.

Protests also took place Saturday in Nashville, where protesters briefly blocked a road, and in Indianapolis.

A rally of hundreds in San Francisco also blocked a freeway ramp, according to local media.

Hundreds of protesters marched from City Hall to Union Square in New York. The crowd later swelled to around a thousand people and effectively closed down Fifth Avenue.

Some in the crowd chanted "No racist police, no justice, no peace" as rain fell in New York.

"I'm feeling very haunted very sad," said Lorena Ambrosio, 27, a Peruvian American and freelance artist, "and just angry that black bodies just keep piling and piling up."