Tensions Reescalate In Ferguson One Week After Michael Brown's Death [UPDATE]
Tensions between protesters and local police re-escalated one week after Ferguson, MO, police officer Darren Wilson reportedly shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown, with witnesses saying a sudden display of militarized force early Saturday morning disrupted what had been up to that point a peaceful day of protesting.
BREAKING: police order protesters to disperse, protesters form line http://t.co/GhtmYx3aVJ— Tim Pool (@Timcast) August 16, 2014
Antonio French, the St. Louis Alderman who has emerged as a citizen journalist/social media superstar thanks to his real time updates of the ongoing protests, recounted what happened last night:
They said after a tense standoff following an individual throwing a bottle at an officer, police were pulling back...— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 16, 2014
They said as police and the tanks were DRIVING AWAY they shot tear gas into the crowd, "Like a big fuck you," they said. #Ferguson— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 16, 2014
Based on later conversations, I don't know if that use of tear gas was authorized. But sure did make getting ppl calmed down more difficult.— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 16, 2014
When I arrived, I saw the men-to-boy ratio was not favorable. There wasn't the same number of leaders on the scene as the night before.— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 16, 2014
I really was about to lose hope of being able to keep the two sides apart. Then Anthony Shahid arrived. His presence helped redirect them.— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 16, 2014
Anthony Shahid is a civil rights activist. French continues by saying he and Shahid tried to ease tensions, with some degree of success:
Shahid said something to 1 of the men who I saw as being a real instigator of escalation. Whatever he said, he was on our team immediately.— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 16, 2014
Shahid then got the crowd to agree to hold their position while he and I went over to see Captain Johnson.— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 16, 2014
Captain Johnson is Capt. Ronald Johnson, who took over security in Ferguson at the behest of Gov. Jay Nixon. French says he, Shahid, Ferguson Committeewoman Patricia Bynes, and a handful of other young people were able to get to move back the line.
It was then, though, that the looting started:
Next thing you hear is glass break. Some run through the busted door of a beauty supply store. Immediately, some ppl run to block them.— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 16, 2014
I'm really proud of those who ran to block looters. They tried to redirect back to the chant "Hands up! Don't shoot!" pic.twitter.com/dARQl1xTyx— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 16, 2014
We heard about guys w/guns and large Molotov cocktails ready. So to avoid violence, the ppl here had secure the businesses as best we could.— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 16, 2014
Those businesses included a liquor store, a beauty shop, and an electronics shop. At this point, Tim Pool, a journalist with Vice, was recording some of the looting--he, Claire Ward, and Alice Speri, also journalists with Vice, were threatened by looters for doing so.
In the livestream, Pool recounted how Al-Jazeera and CNN journalists were also threatened by the looters.
Meanwhile, French pressed for more calm.
By this time it was just around 2AM. Still too many troublemakers. Still too much anger. Still too many weapons. Still too few grown men.— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 16, 2014
Now it was kind of a waiting game. How long before the troublemakers just go home? We knew it was going to be a long night.— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 16, 2014
I want to be clear: Police not coming in at this point -- even with the looting -- was a good thing. It would've gotten very violent.— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 16, 2014
It became so clear the awfulness of the situation. Communities need police. But here & now, the slightest police presence enrages people.— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 16, 2014
The long night eventually came to an end early Saturday morning:
Here's the latest from the St. Louis Post Dispatch:
A handful of owners stood guard this morning at their businesses, doing their best to discourage any more looting or violence.
Rain fell on the scene of broken out windows and ransacked store shelves at businesses like Ferguson Market and Liquor.
The streets of Ferguson mostly were void of protesters by 6 a.m. as dawn broke and the rain continued after the violent night.
Gov. Nixon said he'd visit Ferguson today.
Long night. Thanks to all who tried to stop unnecessary violence. I will be in Ferguson today.— Governor Jay Nixon (@GovJayNixon) August 16, 2014
Questions about Brown's killing remain, thanks to an ever-evolving account of the circumstances surrounding Brown's death by Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson.
As protests continued, Jackson held a press conference wherein he named Darren Wilson, a six-year veteran of the local force, as the man who shot Brown.
Capt. Johnson criticized the release of info about the alleged robbery:
Captain Johnson, who grew up in the area, had been brought in by Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday to restore peace after days of confrontations between demonstrators and the police in riot gear and military-style vehicles. The captain said he had not been told that the authorities planned to release the video of the robbery along with the name of the officer. But he sought to calm people down, saying, “In our anger, we have to make sure that we don’t burn down our own house.”
Then, hours after that press conference, Jackson once again spoke to press.
This time, Jackson spoke to media to say that Wilson's stopping of Brown was unrelated to the robbery, and that Wilson didn't even know Brown was a suspect in the strong-armed robbery.
The officer who shot Ferguson teen Michael Brown stopped Brown and another teen because they were walking in the street, not because of a robbery a few minutes earlier, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said Friday afternoon.
Jackson said the officer was aware cigars had been taken in the robbery of a store nearby, but did not know when he encountered Brown and Dorian Johnson that they might be suspects. He stopped them because they were walking in the street, Jackson said.
Then, Jackson spoke to St. Louis Post Dispatch, hours after his second press conference that day to further contextualize what happened.
This time, Jackson said that while Wilson initially stopped Brown and his friend, Darien Johnson, for essentially jaywalking and blocking traffic, Wilson saw cigars in his hand, and thus thought him to be a suspect in the robbery.
But Jackson told the Post-Dispatch that the officer, Darren Wilson, saw cigars in Brown's hand and realized he might be the robber.
In other words, Wilson apparently knew Brown was a robbery suspect before he himself knew Brown was a robbery suspect.
The changing narrative prompted harsh criticism.
"There is not a thimble's worth of trust that anyone can place in the chief of police of Ferguson," U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver told the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
Most people expressed profound disappointment in the looters, asking people not to judge the protesters based on their actions.
I'm so disappointed. Political agendas and bruised egos helped motivate tonight's set back.— Patricia Bynes (@Patricialicious) August 16, 2014
America, please don't hold small group of looters against hundreds & hundreds of peaceful protesters.Rather hold small group accountable.— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) August 16, 2014