Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri turned over a police car in front of Ferguson City Hall and set it on fire Tuesday night. VPC
FERGUSON, Mo. — Protesters torched a police car in a second night of unrest Tuesday, hours after Missouri’s governor sent hundreds more National Guard troops to restore order in this riot-torn city.
Tensions rose after darkness fell, a day after a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer for shooting an unarmed black teen sparked violent protests.
Despite the presence of more troops, hundreds of protesters marched on City Hall, smashing windows and setting fire to a police squad car.
Police responded with armored cars and lines of officers with weapons and dogs. Smoke rose from the street after police lobbed what looked and smelled like tear gas. Protesters tossed projectiles back at police.
Police used loudspeakers to order protesters and media off Florissant Road or face arrest. They announced, “This is an unlawful assembly,” prompting much of the crowd to disperse.
A single protester dropped to her knees in the road in front of two police trucks. She was picked up by police.
At least four people, one of them a woman, were detained while protesting in front of the Ferguson Police Department. It was unclear if they were being charged. Several flaming objects were hurled at police.
“I really don’t know what’s going to happen tonight,” said protester Joe Green, 24, of St. Louis. “I’m not scared though.”
Earlier in the day, Gov. Jay Nixon, declaring that violence “cannot be repeated,” tripled the presence of the National Guard.
“Lives and property must be protected. This community deserves to have peace,” Nixon said.
“Criminals intent on lawlessness and destruction terrorized this community,” he said. “We must do better and we will.”
Ferguson’s mayor complained the National Guard deployed too late Monday to prevent destruction after a grand jury declined to indict officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Their August confrontation touched off nationwide debate over racial tensions and police practices.
The National Guard didn’t deploy quickly enough to prevent violence and arson in the wake of a grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, Ferguson’s mayor said. He called the delay “deeply concerning.” VPC
The Guard presence was being “ramped up significantly,” Nixon said. More than 2,200 Guard troops were in the area, up from 700 the day before, to protect homes and businesses.
After dark, as demonstrations resumed in cities across the country, troops stood outside the Ferguson police and fire departments. All but a handful of nearby businesses were closed. Protesters shouted and taunted officers from across the street: “Fight back,” and “Please don’t shoot me dead.”
Wilson, the 28-year-old police officer, made his first public comments, telling ABC News that before he fired the fatal shots, the unarmed teenager “grabbed my gun, and he charged me, and he was going to kill me.”
“The reason I have a clean conscience is I know I did my job right,” Wilson said.
More than a dozen buildings burned Monday night, other businesses were looted and cars were set on fire. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said there were 21 fires and 61 arrests, 32 for burglary. Three officers were injured in the mayhem, which was spread over four square miles.
“I am deeply saddened for the people of Ferguson who woke up this morning to see parts of their community in ruins,” Nixon said. “It’s a heartbreaking sight. Seniors afraid to leave the house. School canceled. Kids scared to go outside and play. … No one deserves this.”
Asked why more guardsmen weren’t deployed Monday night, Nixon said he would not go into “operational” details.
Mayor James Knowles called the delay Monday night “deeply concerning.” He said the troops, under the supervision of a unified command, were available but were not deployed when city officials asked.
In anticipation of more unrest, Florissant Road was crowded with crews boarding up businesses Tuesday afternoon.
Baek Lee took stock of his losses at his shop, Beauty World, which was ravaged by looters and set partially on fire. The store is just a stone’s throw from the police station, and he didn’t board up the store ahead of the announcement because of the cost.
“I couldn’t afford it and I thought I should be okay since we are close to the police station,” said Lee, as a crew covered broken windows with wood. He and other shopkeepers were embraced by customers who stopped by and offered condolences.
Shahieda Hudson, of St. Louis, brought her daughter, niece and nephew to help clean up an antique store that was ravaged by fire. “I wanted them to feel they were important members of this city, and that they can share their voice in a productive way,” she said.
Belmar said it was unclear whether a body found near Ferguson apartments was related to unrest. He said gunfire Monday night forced fire responders to retreat from a building in flames.
The superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Col. Ronald Replogle, called Monday night “a disaster” and vowed that Tuesday would be different.
Protests continued throughout the afternoon. Following a rally outside the federal courthouse in downtown St. Louis, several hundred demonstrators walked onto Interstate 44, briefly blocking traffic near the Edward Jones Dome. Police said some protesters threw objects at police.
Earlier in the day, the lawyer representing Brown’s family blasted the prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, after a grand jury declined to charge the white officer in the Aug. 9 shooting death of the unarmed, black teen.
“We saw how completely unfair this process was,” lawyer Benjamin Crump said. “We object as publicly and loudly as we can on behalf of Michael Brown Jr.’s family that this process is broken. The process should be indicted.”
Crump accused McCulloch of defending Wilson rather than prosecuting him — of failing to put his “best case” before the grand jury.
McCulloch released more than 1,000 pages of documents and testimony from the grand jury proceedings. That included testimony from Wilson, who said Brown attacked him in the patrol car, forcing him to shoot. Witnesses accounts differed on whether Brown’s hands were raised, moments later, when Wilson fired the fatal shots on a Ferguson street, McCulloch said.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar expresses his disappointment in the minimal amount of peaceful protesters and the extreme measures that protesters took. VPC
Grand jury call not the end for police officer
Wilson remains on administrative leave from the police force.
Reports: Officer Wilson won’t return to Ferguson force
Attorney General Eric Holder voiced disappointment at the violence and said two federal investigations are underway, one into the Brown shooting and another into the Ferguson police.
“The department’s investigations will continue to be thorough, they will continue to be independent and they remain ongoing,” Holder said. “They will be conducted rigorously and in a timely manner.”
Crump said the problem is more pervasive than Ferguson.
“All across America, young people of color are being killed by police officers,” Crump said. “And local prosecutors are putting together these ‘unbiased’ grand juries that continue to yield the same results.”
Wilson: Struggle with Brown was like fighting ‘Hulk Hogan’
Wilson’s lawyers issued a statement praising the grand jury’s decision and saying the officer is grateful to his supporters.
“Law enforcement personnel must frequently make split-second and difficult decisions,” the lawyers wrote. “Officer Wilson followed his training and followed the law.”
A Little Caesars Pizza restaurant was set on fire by protesters Monday night in Ferguson, Missouri in response to the grand jury announcement to not indict officer Darren Wilson. VPC