Several stores along W. Florissant Ave. in Ferguson were broken into and robbed late Friday night and early Saturday morning. The violence broke out after another long day of protests in the city. However, in this instance, protests were a bit more heated and emotional after the Friday morning press conference by Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson. The chief finally provided the name of the officer, Darren Wilson, who shot and killed 18-year-old Mike Brown last Saturday. However, he simultaneously released footage from a store robbery that occurred minutes before that apparently shows Brown lifting some cigars and pushing a store employee.
The sense from the community after the press conference is that Jackson purposely released the robbery information at the same time as identifying the officer in an effort to exonerate the officer’s actions while assassinating Brown’s character. Later in the day, Jackson spoke about the officer in reverent terms, saying Wilson is heartbroken about what has occurred and never meant for it to happen. To make matters worse, Jackson admitted that Wilson did not know Brown was a suspect in the robbery when he stopped him. Per the chief, Wilson stopped Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, for jaywalking.
Jackson contends that he only released the information due to Sunshine Law requests from media outlets. However, he could have released it at a separate time or earlier than Friday morning. It was apparent to all that he did this in order to incite the community to react emotionally and violently. Community leaders and organizers, as well as people representing Brown’s family, called out Jackson for this blatant attempt to antagonize protesters and the residents of Ferguson. At the same time, they also called for peace and asked the people of Ferguson to not take the bait laid out by the Ferguson police.
Until late evening Friday, demonstrations in Ferguson were emotionally charged but peaceful. Much like Thursday evening, there was actually an air of hope and jubilation over the crowd. Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson once again mingled with the crowd and provided an optimistic outlook early Friday evening.
“These people are exercising their 1st Amendment rights and walking on the sidewalks and streets their tax dollars paid for.”
However, by midnight, police officers lined up to disperse the remaining protesters, who were clearly agitated. Eventually, tear gas and pepper spray was used to break up the crowd. Between 1 AM and 4 AM, several stores were hit along W. Florissant Ave., including Ferguson Market, which is where Brown supposedly committed his robbery. Another store, Sam’s Meat Market, was broken into and burglarized. This happened despite the store’s owner telling the community he is behind them 100% and will not move his business.
Police did not intervene even though the looting was captured on live television. Ferguson and St. Louis County police deferred to the Highway Patrol, saying they were now in charge of the scene. The Highway Patrol stayed put dealing with the remaining protesters. It can be said that local law enforcement likely just allowed it to happen as a sort of protest to being pulled off the scene Thursday by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. By playing politics, local police allowed businesses to be damaged for no good reason.
Of course, those who robbed and looted need to take responsibility for their actions. Local business owner and residents feel that, as was the case Sunday night, the vast majority of those involved in the looting are opportunists from surrounding areas taking advantage of the situation. They aren’t protesting on behalf of Mike Brown. They are merely criminals from other cities coming in and hurting Ferguson. One business owner that was hit says that she saw people coming into her store earlier in the day essentially casing out the place. When she reviewed video surveillance, she confirmed that the men that were in earlier were involved in the looting.
At this point, Tom Jackson needs to be relieved of his position. In his effort to protect one of his own, he has enraged and destroyed a community.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).