With Clergy On Hand, Ferguson Experiences Calmest Evening Since Protests Began

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Protests in Ferguson were relatively sparse and very peaceful Wednesday evening. Per police accounts, only six arrests were made by the end of the night. Overall, the crowd was much thinner than in previous days. Much of this can be attributed to a rainstorm that hit the area after 8 PM. However, Captain Ron Johnson, who is in command of security in Ferguson, stated that the crowd was pretty light prior to the rain falling. After the storm had hit, the crowd grew when roughly 100 clergy members, most from the St. Louis area, joined the protest. The large group of religious leaders had just arrived from a march on the St. Louis County courthouse earlier in the evening.

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The small number of arrests came towards the end of the evening and were for failure to disperse. Per Johnson, the police did not notice many agitators within the crowd Wednesday evening. While there was one bottle thrown at police during the evening, this did not lead to any large-scale action by law enforcement. No pepper spray, tear gas or rubber bullets were used during the night. Johnson credited the presence of clergy in the evening as well as the arrival of Attorney General Eric Holder for bringing a calming influence on the area and preventing another tense evening.

There was one briefly tense moment when a white couple started marching along W. Florissant Ave. with signs showing support for Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Mike Brown on August 9th. Many protesters on the scene rushed over to confront the couple and verbally berate them. The combination of rainfall and police coming in to escort the couple out of the area quickly deescalated the situation. A similar situation occurred at a protest in nearby Clayton earlier in the day, when a woman showed up in front of the courthouse with a pro-Wilson sign.

While some credit for the lighter crowd and calmer situation can be given to the clergy presence, Holder’s visit and weather, the fact is that the crowds have gradually been getting thinner over the past few days. Obviously, fatigue is taking a factor. Also, some protesters are setting their sights elsewhere. With a grand jury convened regarding possible charges against Wilson, some protesters have taken to gathering in front of the county courthouse. The clergy-led protest march on Wednesday evening drew hundreds of participants. A statement for county prosecutor Bob McCulloch was delivered by the clergy at the protest calling on him to recuse himself from the case.

Another demand delivered in the statement read at the Clayton protest called for the grand jury to go through an expeditious process when it comes to hearing the evidence and delivering a charge. Also, if and when Wilson is indicted, he will swiftly be arrested. Finally, the clergy called on McCulloch to follow up on a complaint filed in 2013 by the NAACP regarding racial profiling by St. Louis County police.

The march and rally in Clayton was extremely peaceful, with the protesters making sure to be very obedient with police on the scene. The main concern with this protest was to deliver a message to McCulloch and St. Louis County loudly and forcefully. One young woman that spoke at the event, Rebecca McCloud, is one of the Peacekeepers who has been present at the Ferguson protests on a nightly basis. She spoke of here experiences in a very honest and uncensored manner. She discussed that she has been shot at and tear gassed while down on the streets of Ferguson.

McCloud wondered where the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations have been during this whole time. After saying that, and decrying police actions, she pointedly stated the following: “I ain’t running for nothing. They can’t take anything from me. Heck, I got bad credit!” She also took a shot at the national media over their recent coverage of the protests. Per McCloud, national news has treated the protests and the nightly violence like entertainment. She openly complained about people sitting at home watching the action on their couches and eating popcorn. For her, this is real life, and she is sick of it. She wants action and justice, that’s all.

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