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Ferguson Smolders On Morning After Grand Jury Decision

(Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio)

Smoke filled the air on more than one corner in the city of Ferguson Tuesday morning, following a night of turmoil.

The unrest followed a grand jury decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 9. Brown's parents, St. Louis officials and even President Barack Obama called on demonstrators to protest peacefully and many did.

But still-smoldering buildings bear witness to the anger that erupted into destruction. About one dozen businesses were reportedly burned.

Cory Douglas of Dellwood found his place of employment reduced to ashes when he showed up for his 6 a.m. shift at Family Dollar on New Halls Ferry Road at Woodwind.

"I'm speechless," Douglas said. He said he could understand the anger of those who had a hand in the destruction, but, "They don't have to do this."

Florissant firefighters arrived around 5:30 a.m. to shoot water into the building. One firefighter said he'd been up and working all night.

At least one business in the Jade Nails plaza on Chambers Road at West Florissant Avenue was burned to the ground and others were damaged. Rashad Parker lives nearby and came over this morning to take photos. He, too, had little to say.

"There are no words," Parker said.

West Florissant Avenue was closed Tuesday morning between Lucas and Hunt Road and Chambers Road and remained inaccessible until at least 7:45 a.m. Police would not say when the stretch would re-open.

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III criticized Gov. Jay Nixon for not deploying the National Guard in time to save businesses that were burned. He said Ferguson city and police officials requested more assets to protect businesses and residents through the Unified Command and "political channels," but Knowles said they had no say in how resources were assigned. 

“The decision to delay the deployment of the National Guard was deeply concerning," Knowles said. "We are asking the governor to deploy all necessary resources to prevent the further destruction of property and preservation of life in the city of Ferguson."

Later on Tuesday, Gov. Nixon said he ordered more 1,300 more National Guard troopers to the region, including hundreds specifically to Ferguson to provide security at the local police department. Nixon said those extra troops will free up police to provide more protection.

Nixon defended the previous night's deployment of 700 troops, which he said included some at both the unified command center in Ferguson and at the Ferguson Police Department. 

Knowles also said some local chambers of commerce and other organizations are already working to help affected businesses. 

"We are absolutely dedicated that businesses, especially our mom and pops, those who have invested their lives and livelihoods have an opportunity to come back, and we welcome them back, and we hope they maintain business here in Ferguson," he said.

One local business owner at that press conference said she was in tears as she saw the aftermath of Monday night, saying "it really, really looks bad." But she said she will leave her and her business's future in "God's control."

South Grand Businesses Recover

About a dozen businesses along South Grand Avenue are boarded up after Monday night's protests were punctuated by rocks and bricks.<

Commerce Bank, St. Louis Bread Company, and Fed Ex were among those hit. Rooster, a restaurant that opened on Grand just six weeks ago, was also damaged.

Credit (Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio)
Rooster Restaurant on South Grand in St. Louis is boarded up on Tuesday.

Employee Tyson Rinderknecht visited the restaurant Monday night with his brother-in-law, the owner.

"But there's not much you can do, and then we ended up getting tear-gassed off the street and just decided to get an early start in the morning, had a board up company out as soon as the people were cleared off the streets," Rinderknecht said.

The façade of the restaurant, which is mostly glass, is now covered in plywood but they were open for business Tuesday morning. St. Louis Police say 21 people were arrested along South Grand Tuesday night.

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.