Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Day of Unrest in Ferguson Ends With Protesters and Police Facing Off
Ferguson police arrest people after the memorial to Michael Brown
was burned.
By Mark Berman
Washington Post
September 24 at 12:20 PM

A day of unrest in Ferguson, Mo., began with the destruction of a memorial for Michael Brown and ended with another tense face-off between residents and police, underscoring the turmoil that still exists in the St. Louis suburb.

Two police officers suffered minor injuries and five people were arrested during the confrontations, police said on Wednesday.

More than six weeks after Michael Brown, 18, was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, the nightly clashes between protesters and heavily armed police officers have faded away and the public’s attention has shifted elsewhere. Yet the situation remains  fraught, as residents continue to be unhappy with the prosecutor investigating the shooting and unnerved by Wilson’s continuing freedom.

The new unrest came not long before President Obama mentioned Ferguson in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly. “Yes, we have our own racial and ethnic tensions,” he said. “And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization and greater diversity with the traditions that we hold dear.”

On Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, dozens of protesters were confronted by police in a situation that immediately evoked the scenes that repeatedly erupted on West Florissant Avenue in August.

The window at Beauty Town, a shop on West Florissant, was smashed on Tuesday night. Juan Santos, an employee, told St. Louis Public Radio that while this was the third time the window had been smashed, it did not appear that anything was taken from inside the store.

Protesters rocked cars, set fires and threw rocks and bottles on Tuesday night, Capt. Ronald S. Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol said at a news conference Wednesday morning. Some also threatened police officers, he said.

Johnson said that two officers were injured during the fray. One of them was struck near the eye with a rock, he said. In addition, Johnson said someone fired shots at police officers near the Canfield Green Apartments.

“This behavior cannot be tolerated,” he said.

Five people were arrested during these protests, Johnson said.

“We understand the frustration of people in our communities and their right to protest, but the violence and damage to property needs to stop,” Tom Jackson, the Ferguson police chief, said in a statement Wednesday.

Jackson said that there was “large scale civil disobedience” on Tuesday night, with a report of looting at the Beauty Town shop and a report of arson at the Whistle Stop custard shop. On Wedneday, Whistle Stop posted a message on its Web site saying it would be closed due to the fire.

The officers responding to the situation on Tuesday night were not wearing the riot gear that had been criticized by reporters and the community as “too much,” Johnson said. But he said that if it seems that officers need to wear it to respond to protests, they will do so in the future.

“You may see an increase in the gear that officers have on,” he said.

Police told reporters that a molotov cocktail was thrown at a business that had been used to store impounded cars, but said there was no serious damage.

This unrest came several hours after one of the memorials not far from where Brown died was destroyed in a fire, which caused anger in the community. The memorial that burned is not the primary one, which is larger and sits in the middle of Canfield Drive; that was not damaged.

Johnson said that while the fire at the memorial may have set off the protests, he did not know for sure.

Authorities said the cause of the blaze is under investigation. Steven Rosenthal, the Ferguson fire chief, said the burning candles usually surrounding the memorial may have started the fire. But residents said that they smelled gasoline and some believed that the fire had to have been set on purpose.

Tom Jackson said in a statement Tuesday that the first police officer who responded tried to put out the fire but was unsuccessful.

“To anyone who believes we didn’t do everything in our power to put this fire out I want to apologize and let you know that was not the case,” he said.

Residents quickly worked to put a new memorial together, and within hours had set down a new collection of stuffed animals that sat atop a sheet covering the ash-riddled grass.

The response on Tuesday morning and the protests later in the evening offered a reminder of just how tense things remain in Ferguson. Activists have continued to call for Wilson’s arrest, with displeasure spilling out into city and county council meetings. Protesters have also repeatedly called for St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch to be replaced by a special prosecutor, with a large protest earlier this month resulting in multiple arrests.

Last week, it was announced that the St. Louis County grand jury considering whether or not to charge Wilson was given an extension and could consider the case until early January. This would push the decision into the winter, which could be a factor in how protesters respond if Wilson is not indicted. It is unclear if the jurors will actually need that much time, though, as McCulloch said Wednesday that the jury could make a decision by early November.

This post has been updated. Last update: 3:03 p.m.

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