Calm returns to Ferguson after night of chaos

Calm returns to Ferguson after night of chaos

Calm returns to Ferguson after night of chaos


by Larry Copeland and Yamiche Alcindor, USA TODAY

Posted on August 19, 2014 at 11:07 AM

FERGUSON, Mo. (USA TODAY) — Schools were closed and streets were quiet here Tuesday, hours after peaceful demonstrations once again descended into chaos with police coming "under heavy gunfire" and arresting 31 people.

Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said four police officers were injured by thrown rocks and bottles, at least two people were shot, and two fires were set during another night of clashes between police and protesters.

Johnson said "officers came under heavy gunfire" during the night, but said officers did not fire a single shot. They "acted with restraint and calm," he said.

The violence has become a nightly event since Michael Brown, 18, was fatally shot by a Ferguson police officer, setting off angry protests that have claimed international headlines.

The streets have been quiet during the day, but life has not returned to normal. The school year had been scheduled to begin more than a week ago, but Ferguson-Florissant district officials canceled classes last week due to the unrest. Then they canceled Monday. Now they say they will try for next Monday.

"This decision was made after much careful deliberation and consideration of input received from local law enforcement officials and District security staff," the district said in a statement. "We believe that closing schools for the rest of this week will allow needed time for peace and stability to be restored to our community and allow families to plan ahead for the additional days that children will be out of school."

Monday night, a group of people trying to keep the peace locked arms and managed to position themselves between the more confrontational protesters and the police line. However, while many among the protesters clamored for calm, some in the crowd appeared determined to provoke an incident.

Johnson said some of those arrested were from as far away as New York and California — part of what he called "a dangerous dynamic of the night."

"Our peaceful protesters are not the enemy," Johnson said. "Tonight we closed the roadway; we allowed those who come in peace to walk the roadway."

Police ordered the media to move away from the scene of the confrontation to their command center, about one mile away.
Earlier, Scott Olson, a news photographer with Getty Images, became the latest journalist to be arrested, according to Pancho Bernasconi, Getty's vice president for news. He was later released, and in a statement Getty said he would continue working in Ferguson.
And before the protests escalated, demonstrators crowded around well-known rapper Nelly, who is from St. Louis, and who was marching with protesters in Ferguson Monday night.

Nelly, who wore a white T-shirt with "#MikeBrown" stamped on it in black letters, cautioned the crowd to remain peaceful.

"It's a lot of people out for themselves that's out here right now," Nelly said. "They are overshadowing people."

He added that people needed a solution that goes past traditional ways of protesting.

"The way we approach the problem is the same every single time," Nelly said. "We get angry. We march. We sing ... We don't strategize. All we do is react."

Others had their own tense encounters with the police. In one instance Monday afternoon, St. Louis County police officers arrested a man walking on a sidewalk.

Two police officers tackled the man to the ground while onlookers shouted that the man wasn't doing anything wrong.

"I didn't see anybody behaving in any way that would instigate for the police to do anything," said Ben Mengis, 55, of St. Louis County, who said he was standing 10 feet from the incident. "He did not do anything."

A police spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Monday dropped the curfew that had been in effect for two nights in an ill-fated effort to curb the violence that has ripped this city since Brown, an unarmed black pedestrian, was shot to death by white police officer Darren Wilson, 28.

Nixon announced that the National Guard would assume "limited responsibilities" to help keep order during nighttime protests over the shooting.

Most of the National Guard units that had been summoned by Nixon appeared early Tuesday to be keeping their distance from the protests and protecting a police staging area.

"With these additional resources in place, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and local law enforcement will continue to respond appropriately to incidents of lawlessness and violence, and protect the civil rights of all peaceful citizens to make their voices heard," Nixon said in a written statement.

"This has to stop," Johnson said early Tuesday morning. "I don't want anyone to get hurt. I don't want an officer to get hurt, I don't want a citizen to get hurt. We have to find a way to stop it."

A grand jury may begin hearing the case on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. It was unclear how long it might take for a decision on whether Wilson should face criminal charges for Brown's death.

Contributing: Charisse Jones in New York; William Cummings and John Bacon in McLean, Va.