Ferguson Protesters Denounce Violence After Two Police Officers Shot And Wounded

Ferguson Protesters Denounce Violence After Two Police Officers Shot And Wounded

ferguson police department shooting

Instead of the story being about Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson finally resigning, Thursday morning’s headlines are filled with reports that two police officers were shot and wounded during protests in front of the Ferguson Police Department. As demonstrations were winding down around midnight, four shots were fired from a location behind where the protesters were gathered. One officer from the Webster Groves PD was struck in the face. Another, a St. Louis County police officer, was shot in the shoulder. Both officers are expected to survive as of Thursday morning.

Protest organizers called for a demonstration to take place at the police station Wednesday evening at 8 PM local time in response to news that Jackson was resigning as police chief. Jackson announced his departure from the force, effective March 19th, on Wednesday afternoon. His leaving the force was precipitated by the release of the Department of Justice’s damning report showing the department engaged in years of systemic racial discrimination. The town’s mayor, James Knowles III, stated that Jackson will receive one year’s severance pay. While the town looks for a new chief, Lt. Col. Al Eickhoff will fill the role on an interim basis.

Roughly 100 or so protesters showed up to the demonstration. The purpose of the protest was to not only acknowledge Jackson’s long-awaited departure, but also to call for the disbanding of the police department and the resignation of Knowles. While the main organizers and leaders tried to keep the demonstration peaceful but passionate, a different vibe was apparent almost from the get go. There was a noticeable tension between organized protesters and others who weren’t well-known to activists and demonstrators who have been protesting since last August when Michael Brown was shot and killed by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

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Differences became apparent around 9:30 PM local time when a car tried to drive through the group of protesters who were gathered in the street in front of the station. The driver’s car was surrounded by protesters and was not allowed to move. After a couple of minutes, some of the people in the crowd started hitting the woman’s vehicle and even opening up her passenger side door. Protest leaders tried to intervene and calm down the angry crowd members, noting that they should not be intimidating and threatening others. Eventually, police lined up at the scene pushed through the crowd and escorted the car to the station’s lot.

 

 

Perhaps because of this, or other issues involving people in the crowd, a couple of melees occurred around 10 PM. Police stood back while members of the crowd got involved in physical fights. From personal experience, physical altercations have been extremely rare during organized protests in and around Ferguson. Many of the demonstrators were disheartened to see this occur at the time. However, protest leaders were able to eventually concentrate their efforts back to demonstrating.

Over the next couple of hours, things remained relatively calm between protesters and police officers, who were all dressed in riot gear. A certain routine developed between the two groups. The line of officers maintained their position in front of the police department. Protesters would confront them with chants. Police would then move the protesters across the street to a business parking lot. This would occur a few times in a period of a couple of hours.

 

Around midnight, things looked like they were wrapping up for the evening. Around that time, there were maybe 50 protesters milling about and roughly 40 police officers in line. Police commanders had slowly been pulling officers out of the line as the demonstrating crowd shrunk. A couple of organizers were allowed to go directly to the station to inquire about bail for a couple of protesters arrested earlier in the evening. At this point, I called it an evening and began walking to my vehicle when I heard four gunshots ring out. I turned around and saw a police officer down on the ground grabbing his face while other officers pulled out their weapons and looked towards the direction of the shots.

 

The shots rang out from a hill behind where the group of protesters was located. After the shots had been fired, protesters began to flee while a couple of organizers told everyone in the parking lot to immediately get out of the area. As I drove off, dozens of cop cars began making their way to the location to respond. As of Thursday morning, no suspects have been identified in the shooting.

 

 

Needless to say, the shooting of two police officers during a protest does an unbelievable disservice to the movement. While it seems apparent that none of the protesters and activists on the scene had anything to do with shooting at cops, the narrative that will develop, especially by unsympathetic media outlets, will be that these demonstrations are violent and they encourage violence against officers. This is patently unfair, but sadly, this is what we are going to likely see moving forward.

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