Protests continue in Ferguson, streets calm late Tuesday
FERGUSON, Mo. — Ferguson streets were calm late Tuesday, as a much smaller crowd milled the streets peacefully, holding signs and chanting.
A few hundred people walked up and down a single block past journalists’ cameras.
“Hands up! Don’t shoot” was their mantra, as it has been every night. But many of the demonstrators added a second chant: “We protesters, we don’t loot.”
Officials had asked for one night of peace, that there not be protests after dark on Tuesday. Protesters said they would not stay off the streets.
Police cars with flashing lights stood by every block of so apart.
Officers in body armor congregated at a car wash alongside an armored vehicle.
Even the police seemed surprised. Said one state trooper. “Can we be peaceful? That’s all I’m saying.”
Things must change
Leaders in the Missouri town insisted earlier Tuesday that things must change. Ten days have passed since a white police officer’s shooting of an unarmed black teenager triggered emotional, expansive protests that have increasingly devolved into violence.
The state highway patrol captain tasked with maintaining security characterized what’s happened in those 10 days as an embarrassment — to Ferguson, to Missouri, to the United States.
In a statement Tuesday, Ferguson leaders vowed to rebuild the city’s business district, parts of which have been ravaged by looting and unrest. They promised to recruit more African-Americans to join the police in their largely African-American community, a relevant point since the Ferguson police department is overwhelmingly white. And they signaled their intention to raise money so that all officers and police cars would be outfitted with vest and dash cams.
Those cameras are significant because they could have helped clear up many questions surrounding Michael Brown’s death. Was Brown executed by a police officer while holding his hands in the air, as some activists claim? Or was Brown shot after rushing at Officer Darren Wilson, who fired fearing for his own life, as detailed in an account on a radio show?
Sides remain dug in
Without any known video of that August 9 shooting, both sides remain dug in. The Brown family’s supporters are as passionate as ever, some saying they lose more and more trust for law enforcement with every armored truck on the road and tear gas canister fired into the air.
Wilson, meanwhile, has gotten more and more support of his own in recent days.
Supporters held a rally in St. Louis this week, and as of Tuesday, nearly 900 people had donated more than $33,000 to a fund for Darren Wilson, according to a GoFundMe page set up to collect donations.
The situation on the streets of Ferguson itself has deteriorated in many ways.
From Monday into Tuesday, at least 74 people were arrested for failure to disperse. Two others were arrested on weapons charges and another person for interfering with an officer. Ron Johnson, the highway patrol captain in charge of security
In addition to this, two people were shot — not by police, authorities said. Four officers were injured.
Police and protesters blamed agitators — including many from outside Ferguson — for the gunplay and violence. According to the jail records, many of those arrested were local residents. Others came from New York, California, Texas and Alabama.
“What we are dealing with right now are two groups of people,” Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal said. “One, protesters who are peacefully demonstrating, expressing their First Amendment rights. And then we have a smaller group of people who have been infiltrating themselves in the crowds and creating all of this unrest.”
Demands for prosecution
Many civic leaders worry the unrest is taking away from the protest’s main message — accountability for the officer who shot the 18-year-old Brown.
Brown’s parents believe the only real way out of this situation is for Officer Wilson to be charged.
“Justice,” the late teen’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, told NBC’s “Today” show. “Justice will bring peace, I believe.”
A grand jury could begin to hear testimony from witnesses and deciding whether to return an indictment in the case as early as Wednesday. That’s the same day that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to visit Ferguson to check in on the Justice Department’s civil rights investigation into Brown’s death.
“At a time when so much may seem uncertain, the people of Ferguson can have confidence that the Justice Department intends to learn — in a fair and thorough manner — exactly what happened,” Holder said in a commentary for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Brown, meanwhile, will be eulogized by civil rights leader Al Sharpton at a public funeral Monday morning.