Members of the Missouri National Guard were positioned late Thursday night outside strip malls and department stores along a 2-mile span of West Florissant Avenue, but there were no demonstrators in sight, continuing what has been a largely peaceful Thanksgiving for this area after days of unrest.
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The quiet presence of the National Guard troops, who could be seen sitting in Humvees as well as patrolling with rifles pointed downward, was a far cry from what this Ferguson thoroughfare looked like on Monday, when gunfire and suspected arson fires erupted after a St. Louis grand jury declined to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
The portion of West Florissant where most of the rioting occurred on Monday night has remained closed since, and is being treated as a crime scene.
A convoy of military vehicles could be seen traveling along Route 70 East near St. Louis International Airport earlier in the day, and some vehicles were also blocking access to a Walgreens and a supermarket near the Ferguson Police Department’s headquarters. An email sent to the Missouri Department of Public Safety seeking comment was not immediately returned, while the Missouri National Guard said it does not discuss deployments.
Demonstrators were not visible at any of the locations where the National Guard was present, although there has been talk of holding protests on Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year.
It was just as quiet at a memorial near the Canfield Green apartments, where Brown was killed Aug. 9, and there were more reporters than pedestrians near Ferguson’s police headquarters around 8:30 p.m.
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Throughout the day, demonstrators have said they considered Thanksgiving a needed day of rest after clashes with police in the wake of the grand jury’s decision.
More than 100 demonstrators attended a Thanksgiving dinner in St. Louis on Thursday night organized by Cat Daniels, affectionately known as “Momma Cat,” a Florissant woman who has been serving food to the demonstrators and acting as something of a mother hen to Brown’s supporters in recent months.
Russell Johnson, 45, a Navy veteran who was arrested Wednesday during a protest at City Hall in St. Louis and suffered a dislocated shoulder, told the Los Angeles Times that many of the demonstrators believed they needed to unite around a meal, not a cause, on Thanksgiving.
“You know how at halftime during a football game you get to rest,” he said. “You get that motivational speech. Then you come out stronger for the second half.”