Quiet night in Ferguson; County Exec will keep state of emergency in effect
After a relatively calm Tuesday night in Ferguson, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger may be close to lifting his state of emergency order. But it won't happen on Wednesday.
Tuesday's protests on West Florissant Avenue were largely uneventful. While police pushed protesters out of the street, most people along the thoroughfare mingled with each other and marched around the street without incident.
The Democratic official called for the order on Monday afternoon after a violent Sunday night that included a police-involved shooting. In effect, the state of emergency gave Stenger the power to provide orders to the St. Louis County Police Department – an entity over which the county executive typically has limited control.
But Stenger said things went smoothly enough on Monday, adding that there were “no shootings, no shots fired, no burglaries, no lootings and really no property damage.” He said Tuesday that if the situation in Ferguson calms down further, he may lift the state of emergency order.
Yet on Wednesday afternoon, Stenger announced in a press release that he would keep the state of emergency in place for at least another day.
"I commend the professionalism of our St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, our police department, and the outstanding work done by all officers involved in protecting life, property and peace," Stenger said. "It is because of their ability to maintain order that I find it prudent to continue the state of emergency for at least the next 24 hours.”
Stenger continued his praise of Belmar on Tuesday, who he said helped cool tensions Monday night.
“One of the chief concerns was that all of the progress that we’ve made over the last year did not quite literally wind up in ashes,” Stenger said. “So with that said, I think key to a lot of this was Jon Belmar and his top staff repeatedly went to the crowd and tried to de-escalate. And I think in all cases really were successful in doing that. And they had individuals that were in the crowd de-escalating.”
Still, police still arrested nearly two dozen people on Monday night. And some protesters and journalist captured some especially tense moments, including officers deploying pepper spray.
During Tuesday's St. Louis County Council meeting, Ladue resident Susan Clark said she had waited outside the St. Louis County Justice Center for people to be released from custody. She said she "did not see a single person come out of that jail last night – and I sat there for 12 and half hours – that didn’t have cuts, bruises, abrasions, something."
Clark also said she was "stunned" Stenger had nothing to say in his weekly report. She added "not even to acknowledge that [the state of emergency] happened and exists – that’s inexcusable.
"If the goal is to achieve any kind of working relationship with the protesters, the St. Louis County Police Department needs to rethink its strategy," Clark said. "And you, as the St. Louis County Council, need to rethink the way its run."
For his part, Stenger defended how officers dealt with demonstrators on Monday.
“It was necessary to arrest 23 individuals who after multiple warnings would not comply with the law [on Monday],” Stenger said. “And I will tell you, I just think it was the efforts of de-escalation and also I think having a structured environment that really, really worked well [Monday].”
Earlier Tuesday, the St. Louis County Police Department released a video that it says shows Tyrone Harris taking a gun from his waistband.