Following the grand jury's decision not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown, thousands took to the streets in Ferguson, Missouri, and around the country to protest. As alternating scenes of peaceful demonstrations and those of violence, fire and looting were broadcast, Ferguson faith leaders repeatedly urged that the only way to move forward was to amplify the voices of peace.
Rev. Ronald L. Bobo Sr., senior pastor of West Side Missionary Baptist Church who has been involved in the local clergy coalition, warned that people should not let bitterness overcome them even at a time when many are asking, "Where is God?"
“If we feel there is injustice, we have to say that, but we have to be sure we respond to it without violence that we might make our voices heard in places where we can get some sort of healing," he said in an interview.
Brown's family had released a statement following the announcement urging protesters to remain peaceful. The family said, "Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction."
Renita Lamkin, an African Methodist Episcopal church pastor who was shot with a rubber bullet during a demonstration in August shortly after Brown's death and has been at the forefront of many protests in Ferguson since, told HuffPost by email that she was "deeply saddened" by the grand jury's decision.
"Failing to take Darren Wilson to trial sends the message that the lives of our young, black sons and daughters has little value in the eyes of our IN-justice system," Lamkin wrote.
According to Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis, she and other members of the clergy had anticipated the grand jury would make its announcement by 5 p.m. on Monday, and many houses of worship had 7 p.m. services planned. When the announcement came after 8 p.m. local time, people had already been waiting outside the Ferguson Police Department for three hours and the situation quickly escalated.
"The streets had been shut down," Talve told HuffPost. "When we got there, they were already teargassing people. When I got there, we were teargassed right away, but we stayed."
Clergy wore orange vests Monday night so that protesters could identify them and seek support, said Brittini Gray, a seminarian at Eden Theological Seminary. Many houses of worship in the area were open all night to provide sanctuary.
Talve said she was caught off guard by how quickly the protests escalated, but she emphasized that there were few injuries. "No one wanted violence, but if we're more upset about the destruction of property than we are about the loss of life, it's idolatry," Talve said.
Rev. Mike Kinman, dean of Christ Church Cathedral, told HuffPost that he attributed much of the unrest to trauma on the part of protesters, police officers and residents generally. After the grand jury's announcement, his congregation held a four-and-a-half-minute silence to honor Brown's family, which had requested such moments of silence to remember the four-and-a-half hours Brown's body was reportedly left on the ground.
“It has been deeply painful, troubling, and has also been, in the context of the prayer vigil, incredibly holy because people have come in to pray from places of great vulnerability,” Kinman said.
By 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, Talve, Gray and other clergy members were back out in the street, this time in neighboring Clayton for a sunrise action. "We prayed a new day in after the violence of last night," Talve said. (See video above.)
Gray said this continued show of solidarity was essential to her not only as an activist but as a person of faith.
“If we truly call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ," Gray said, "then the action has to be beyond prayer and holding services in a sanctuary. It has to be fighting for justice on the streets, in the courts and through legislation as a way to be the feet and mouth of Jesus.”
Central Reform Congregation and many other houses of worship in the area will remain open 24 hours, Talve said, to provide sanctuaries where people can charge their cell phones, eat, receive medical attention and find legal support.
"We're going to try to do what we can to de-escalate violence but keep the movement going," Talve said. "We're not going to be silenced. We're going to continue protest until we see things change."
Community members will continue supporting one another, Kinman said, as they have since the protests first erupted in August. He said he has seen people of all races and backgrounds cry in each others’ arms, listen to one another and pray together.
“And for just a moment," Kinman said, "you get a glimpse of what a city that makes glad God’s heart looks like.”
11/30/2014 3:28 PM EST
Wilson Resigned Over Safety Concerns, Lawyer Says
he white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, this summer, resigned from the force without any severance deal, the mayor of the St. Louis suburb said on Sunday.
The officer, Darren Wilson, announced his resignation late Saturday, saying he feared for his own safety and that of his fellow police officers after a grand jury decided not to indict him in the fatal Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
11/30/2014 7:27 AM EST
10 People Arrested During Portland's Ferguson Protest
PORTLAND, Ore (AP) — Authorities say 10 people have been arrested in Portland during a protest related to the Ferguson, Missouri, police shooting.
The city police bureau says the arrests came Saturday night "after a large group of protesters laid down in the street and refused lawful orders to clear the roadway."
Earlier, the gathering over the Missouri shooting death of a black man by a white police officer included a speech by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
The Oregonian reports that Jackson urged nonviolence and said the resignation of the officer was "a step in the right direction," but that much remained to be done to achieve justice for the victim.
Police say that after Jackson left, some protesters marched around downtown and sporadically disrupted traffic.
Officials say some bottles were thrown at officers and a police car was damaged.
The nine adults and one juvenile arrested will face charges that include disorderly conduct.
11/29/2014 10:15 PM EST
11/29/2014 10:01 PM EST
Large Police Presence
11/29/2014 9:42 PM EST
Saturday Night Protest In Ferguson
11/29/2014 9:26 PM EST
Armed 'Oath Keepers' Plan To Protest
The NYT reports that armed members of the group "Oath Keepers" are in Ferguson to offer their help protecting businesses from damage.
From the NYT:
The volunteers, who are sometimes described as a citizen militia — but do not describe themselves that way — have taken up armed positions on rooftops here on recent nights....
But on Saturday, with the county police said to be threatening the Oath Keepers with arrest, the volunteers decided to abandon their posts and instead protest against the authorities. Late in the day on Saturday, a protest was being planned for that night.
Read more here.
11/29/2014 6:56 PM EST
Darren Wilson Resigns From Ferguson Police Department
Darren Wilson has resigned from Ferguson police department.
Read his resignation letter below, via St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
"I, Darren Wilson, hereby resign my commission as a police officer with the City of Ferguson effective immediately. I have been told that my continued employment may put the residents and police officers of the City of Ferguson at risk, which is a circumstance that I cannot allow. For obvious reasons, I wanted to wait until the grand jury made their decision before I officially made my decision to resign. It was my hope to continue in police work, but the safety of other police officers and the community are of paramount importance to me. It is my hope that my resignation will allow the community to heal. I would like to thank all of my supporters and fellow officers throughout this process."
11/27/2014 12:55 PM EST
Murals In Ferguson
The group that's out painting right now also did this mural. It's a block or so from the Ferguson PD pic.twitter.com/tqgIUhR8C0— Jim Dalrymple II (@JimDalrympleII) November 27, 2014
11/27/2014 11:28 AM EST
Ferguson Protests Hit Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Unrest following the Ferguson grand jury's decision to not indict police officer Darren Wilson has hit the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Using #StopTheParade as a rallying cry, protesters attempted to disrupt the annual parade in New York City. According to Mashable, police arrested some of the demonstrators just as the parade kicked off.
11/27/2014 11:19 AM EST
Ferguson Library Stays Open Throughout The Protests
MSNBC's Steve Kornacki reports on Ferguson's public library, which has remained open throughout the protests.
Over 50 volunteers helped staff the library, which provided free lunches to children as schools remained closed. The library also offered help to businesses who suffered damage during the protests following the grand jury's decision.
"We have a dramatic setting right now but it is not different than what libraries do every day," library director Scott Bonner said.