CRIME

Another Night Of Unrest During Protests In Ferguson

08/20/2014 12:33 am ET | Updated Aug 20, 2014

FERGUSON, Mo. -- It was almost a peaceful night. But late Tuesday, the tension in the air broke and there were, once again, confrontations between police and the protesters out calling for justice in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

The protest built slowly Tuesday, in part due to the fact that the temperature was in the 90s and the sun was out. But once it became darker -- and people came by after work -- the crowd began to grow.

Protesters marched along West Florissant Avenue in remembrance of Brown, the unarmed black teenager fatally shot by a white police officer on Aug. 9. Demonstrators chanted "no justice no peace," and "hands up, don't shoot," while others simply looked on. Police were, for the most part, not enforcing the rule -- which officers said came from Gov. Jay Nixon's (D) office -- forcing protesters to keep moving or risk removal.

While people were relieved at the initial lack of confrontation Tuesday night, everyone recognized how fragile the situation was and that it could turn instantly. Community members and religious leaders were going through the crowd trying to stop arguments and conflicts before they escalated.

At one point, a fight broke out in front of the Burger Bar -- the only business in the protest area that has remained open late each evening -- but the incident was brief and quickly diffused.

By 11:00 p.m. CDT, peacekeepers were encouraging protesters to leave the area for the night and urging everyone to gather for a new protest outside the office of St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch Wednesday morning. A grand jury is expected to convene at that time. Many community members want McCulloch removed from the investigation of Brown's death, arguing he is not impartial.

By around midnight central time, the situation quickly changed. Water bottles and urine were reportedly thrown at the police and there were confrontations between police officers and protesters. At least one officer drew his gun, and panic erupted as people fled, crouching behind cars and trying to get away from the chaos.

A police line formed, and some individuals trying to serve as mediators linked arms between the officers and the crowd.

The media area became crowded with protesters who had retreated into it to escape the chaos, so police began to remove protesters within its boundaries. Members of the media were encouraged to remain in the designated press area as confrontations between protesters and officers continued.

At least one member of the media was spotted being arrested and a legal observer from the National Lawyers Guild was also being detained.

According to Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, police encountered fewer violent incidents on Tuesday, no Molotov cocktails and no live gunfire. In response, officers did not feel the need to use smoke bombs or tear gas, though a limited amount of pepper spray was deployed, he said.

Johnson noted that there was a "different dynamic" on the streets and credited a change in the mood on the streets of Ferguson to many different law enforcement agencies working as a united team as well as "elders, volunteers, activists and clergy" who walked and talked with protesters. These people had a "calming influence," particularly on the young people, he said.

At a press conference early Wednesday, Johnson told reporters that most of the protests held during the day were peaceful. However, once darkness fell, "violent instigators" took to the streets. Police eventually made 47 arrests, including one during a traffic stop that involved suspects who allegedly threatened to shoot a police officer. Two loaded guns were confiscated during that encounter.

Attorney General Eric Holder will visit Ferguson to follow up on the Justice Department's independent investigation into Brown's death, meeting with federal investigators on Wednesday. He penned a letter to the people of Ferguson on Tuesday discouraging violent protests.

"In order to begin the healing process, however, we must first see an end to the acts of violence in the streets of Ferguson," Holder wrote. "Although these acts have been committed by a very small minority — and, in many cases, by individuals from outside Ferguson — they seriously undermine, rather than advance, the cause of justice. And they interrupt the deeper conversation that the legitimate demonstrators are trying to advance."

Amanda Terkel and Ryan J. Reilly reported from Ferguson. Ashley Alman contributed from Washington. Jade Walker reported from New Hampshire. This post has been updated.

Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS