Tensions Boil Over In Ferguson Tuesday Night After Fire At Michael Brown Memorial


Protests resumed in Ferguson Tuesday night that led to the arrests of seven people. One local store was damaged when a rock was thrown through a window. However, there was no looting of the store, despite local media outlets using that word in their headlines. Protesters threw rocks and bottles at police officers at the scene, leading to the arrests. At one point, there were roughly 200 demonstrators gathered at West Florissant and Canfield, which was the main gathering point for the nightly protests in August. Towards the end of the evening, that number had dwindled down to about 50.

While protests have continued in the area throughout the month of September, they have been during daytime hours and organized by groups. They’ve generally adhered to set schedules and agendas, and the demonstrations have been largely peaceful. Other than an attempted highway shutdown protest earlier this month, demonstrators and police have not dealt with large-scale confrontations like the kind we saw last month during the nighttime protests that made national headlines. That changed Tuesday night as police gathered on W. Florissant to engage the group of protesters late in the evening.

It appears that the main impetus for the demonstration was a fire that burned down a makeshift memorial to honor Michael Brown. The memorial, consisting mostly of teddy bears, balloons and handmade signs, was erected on the side of the street where Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on August 9th. Another memorial, located at the spot where Brown died, was undamaged and remains intact. Local residents immediately suspected Ferguson police of setting the fire. While this is mostly due to a complete distrust of local police, some of that suspicion also comes from police arriving at the scene of the fire and standing around watching it while it burned. Police will say they were waiting on the fire department to arrive, but it can be argued that police could have helped put the relatively small fire out using fire extinguishers in their vehicles.

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Of course, this could have just been the spark that ignited the anger and rage that was bubbling under the surface the past few weeks. St. Louis Alderman Antonio French tweeted out those sentiments Tuesday night.


While the violent protests had stopped a while ago, people in the area are still angry that Wilson remains free and the grand jury is still contemplating charges against him. There is a huge amount of distrust, not only with local law enforcement, but St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, who decided to send the matter to the grand jury instead of issuing charges himself. With the grand jury convening until January 7th, there is a fear that McCulloch and law enforcement are hoping to string this out into the winter and with the hopes of quietly announcing that Wilson has been cleared of any wrongdoing. The longer we go without charges filed against Wilson, the more cynical area residents get that justice will be served. Eventually, Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol arrived at the scene, along with St. Louis Metro Chief Sam Dotson and St. Louis County Chief Jon Belmar. Johnson was put in charge of security of the Ferguson protests by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon last month after Belmar and Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson were relieved due to their militarized police tactics when dealing with protesters.  


While protesters displayed their anger throughout the night, and tensions did boil over at times as some demonstrators threw objects at the police, there was relatively little damage done to properties. A beauty shop had its window broke. However, the owner said no merchandise was taken.



Towards the end of the night, shots were heard in the area. Nobody was hit and after the shots were fired many of the remaining protesters ran down Canfield Drive. Reports of a fire in downtown Ferguson were overstated. A fire was set outside a store, but the store itself was not seriously damaged. Local police were able to put the small fire out with a garden hose. Police also report that a Molotov cocktail was thrown into an auto shop which the police use to impound cars. It is reported that no real damage was done.

Wednesday morning, McCulloch was on the air with a local radio station. He stated that he felt that the grand jury will return with a recommendation by the end of October or early November. He does not believe it will be January 7th. I doubt that is going to make the residents feel better.


Image courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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