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Uneasy Peace Holds in Ferguson During Protest March

Ferguson Police Lt. Craig Rettke is confronted by two protestors in the middle of S. Florissant Road Sunday night.
Stephanie Lecci | St. Louis Public Radio

An at-times uneasy peace held Sunday night between police and protesters, just one night after shots unrelated to demonstrations were fired at two area police officers, hitting one.

More than 150 protesters gathered Sunday for a march outside the Ferguson Police Department on S. Florissant Road, chanting and banging out rhythms on pots, drums and tambourines. Cars driving by honked in seeming support.

Tensions rose as protesters spilled onto the street, and dozens of police officers, carrying batons and plastic handcuffs, formed an advancing line to corral the growing crowd back onto sidewalks. Most protesters retreated, though at one point, water bottles were thrown at police. More than half a dozen arrests were made during these back-and-forth maneuvers.

At one particularly tense moment, protestors and police cars essentially closed S. Florissant. Some members of the crowd moved into the middle of the road to confront police with chants including “Whose streets? Our streets” and “Who do you protect? Who do you serve?”

Several among the crowd, including Ferguson Officer Greg Casem, St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, D-21st Ward, and Ferguson Township Committeewoman Patricia Bynes, worked throughout the evening to keep the situation calm.

Credit Stephanie Lecci
Police form an advancing line to move protestors back onto the sidewalk and out of S. Florissant Road outside of the Ferguson Police Department Sunday night.

But the crowd also policed itself, resolving disagreements quickly and calming those who tried to enter the street to confront the line of the police. Ferguson Police Lt. Craig Rettke said the police also would enforce a local noise ordinance starting at 11 p.m., but protesters quieted down at that time in response and shushed those who didn’t abide.

By 11:30, some protestors began discussing an agreement with police to disperse in exchange for the release of eight people arrested without bond. Reports on Twitter indicated that by 1:30, the eight arrested had been released.

Police from several jurisdictions responded to the protest, including Normandy, St. Louis County, and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

White allies

Earlier in the day, organizers had called for white protesters to participate in the evening’s protest and in a solidarity march.

Credit Stephanie Lecci
White "allies" were asked to join protests Sunday night in Ferguson.

“Our allies actually came together and said they want to actually show that this is, even though it’s targeted toward black people, it’s not just black people that are outraged,” said Montague Simmons of the Organization for Black Struggle. “Up until now, the media has really painted this as just a few black people who are really mad and want to stay in confrontation and that’s not it. There are lots of citizens across the city that are outraged by this, and they want justice.”

University City resident John Chasnoff, of the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression, said it was important for white protesters to also be present.

“There’s a certain responsibility that comes with white privilege,” he said. “We are benefiting from that kind of systemic repression. We need to be the ones who speak out. It shouldn’t always have to be the folks who are most affected by that system who have to ask us to turn out and show that that kind of system is immoral.”

After the crowd marched south on S. Florissant Rd. to Ferguson’s Plaza 501, two white speakers talked about structural racism and the role white people could play. The second speech was interrupted by a disagreement among the protesters, but was settled by others in the crowd.

“There’s a full force to show that this isn’t just a young, black issue, this is an everybody issue, and we’re working hard on making sure the police know that,” said Ferguson Township committeewoman Patricia Bynes.

The protests followed a daytime “Bike for Justice,” in which protestors rode bicycles around the city to follow the police's “keep moving order.” Police said Sunday the order was still in effect, but didn’t address the crowd when it was standing still.