Violence Diminishes In Ferguson, As Law Enforcement Ramps Up
The second day of post-grand jury protest in Ferguson unfolded in a familiar pattern. It began peacefully and ended with broken windows, tear gas and instructions to disperse. Forty-five people were arrested, the majority for misdemeanor offenses.
Throughout the evening there were small skirmishes between protesters and police. Protesters gathered in South Florissant Road immediately in front of the Ferguson police station, as police largely stayed in a line across the sidewalk. Protesters left one lane of traffic open, occupying the remaining three. One man, Mike Haywood, walked up and down the free lane conducting traffic and ensuring that cars headed in opposite directions were free to proceed.
Hayward, who lives up the street, said he worried the protesters’ message would be clouded by acts of violence.
“They got to stop this,” he said, "There could be ladies having babies, there could be heart attacks, and they’re just blocking it up. That’s not good.”
For an hour, a dance mapped from earlier August protests ensued. While National Guard members remained in the Ferguson Police Department parking lot, officers from the unified command would push protesters back onto the sidewalk across the street. Then, police would begin to back away and protesters would advance. Both parties would then repeat the action.
Deray McKesson, one of the organizers and authors of the Ferguson Protester newsletter said the feeling was different from the previous night.
“Last night was the manifestation of a lot of pain, grief and anger. That’s what we saw last night,” he said. “Tonight again you see that anger, and that rage and passion, but you see it coupled with the love in a different sort of restraint.”
At one point a police officer responded to a protester’s inquiry, amiably stating there was no curfew and that “this isn’t martial law.”
Around 9 p.m. a group of protesters began marching north on South Florissant Road, where some broke windows at the Ferguson City Hall and set a parked police car on fire.
"Get away if you're a peaceful protestor!" one young man yelled, urging others to leave the scene. Soon after, a firework exploded, sending others running.
Police responded with gas masks on and riot shields out to clear Church Street. As tear gas was fired nearby, a group of people trying to escape the fumes were pushed toward the police line, but were then directed toward the parking lot of a public library.
Other protesters returned to the street in front of the Ferguson Police Department. For an hour they resumed their dance with the police, trading space in the street. But things seemed to be changing about the time the police drove armored transport trucks close to the protesters. A small group of individuals behind the primarily peaceful protesters occasionally tossed bottles toward the police.
Tensions increased dramatically after a triptych of arrests and police advancing up to the crowd spraying mace over the first rows of people. According to one protester, who wouldn’t provide his name, the police were aiming for one person but the mace spread and affected several people. As police pushed protesters back into the parking lot across the street from the police department and down the street, a small group began breaking up cement to throw at the police. That's when police announced over a loud speaker that the protest constituted an “unlawful assembly due to objects being thrown.”
The group who had broken up cement retreated, throwing rocks and other objects through the windows of some businesses as police advanced. A firework exploded inside an auto supply store, rocks and bottles were also hurled at advancing police cars. Police continued moving to protect businesses and push protesters down the street. By 11:30 p.m., the majority of people who had gathered in front of the police department were heading toward their cars.
At a 1:30 a.m. news conference, police displayed an assortment of bottles, rocks and an unbroken Molotov cocktail that were found at the scene. St. Louis Police Chief Jon Belmar also listed broken tent poles, pieces of asphalt, and bottles of what appeared to be urine, which he said were thrown at officers. Two pistols were also confiscated.
"We were concerned that if we didn't go in there and interact with these rioters, that potentially anything could happen. With the amount of arson that we saw last night, we certainly didn't want to take that risk," Belmar said.
Police made 45 arrests, seven of them felonies. In contrast, officers arrested 32 people on felony charges Monday night. During the protests on South Florissant, another car was set on fire at a parking lot near the memorial for Michael Brown, next to the Canfield Green apartment complex. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said firefighters did not initially respond.
“The only time there was any gunfire here in the area was during that car fire,” Belmar said. “At the time they felt like it would not extend to any structure, and because of the spread of gunfire in the area they felt that it was not safe.”
On Tuesday morning, police uncovered a body in a parked car at the same apartment complex — they say an investigation is ongoing.
In St. Louis
While protest in Ferguson remained chaotic and confrontational other demonstrations in the region were relatively calm and small.
Nearly 30 people gathered near Forest Park last night. From there the group marched through the Central West End, continuing east down Lindell Boulevard. Demonstrators remained on the sidewalk, most of the time, as they marched. Police followed, but no confrontations occurred.
Another small protest took place on South Grand Boulevard, where police seemed well prepared for much larger demonstrations. One parking lot along Grand was filled with police vehicles.
On Monday, more than 200 protesters gathered near the Shaw neighborhood; last night’s crowd of more than 50 was much calmer. Police and protesters did standoff at the intersection of South Grand Boulevard and Arsenal Street.
While standing in the street, officers demanded that protesters remain on the sidewalk or face arrest. Several protesters were detained, however most of the demonstrators stayed out of the street, following officers orders. Police and protesters remained in a silent standstill until police pulled back.