On the Ground in Ferguson: "Everything Was Peaceful Until They Started Talking About Shooting"

On the Ground in Ferguson: "Everything Was Peaceful Until They Started Talking About Shooting"

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Friday, August 15 was a day of confusion for people in Ferguson, Missouri. After six days of asking, and then demanding that the name of the police officer who shot down Michael Brown be released to the public, the Ferguson Police Department held a press conference where they identified the officer in question as 28-year-old Darren Wilson. Police Chief Thomas Jackson said that Wilson has been with the department for six years and in that time has never had to be disciplined. Jackson said during the press conference that Wilson was in the Canfield Green apartment complex patrolling the area, looking for a robbery suspect. It was during that conference that Jackson released reports and images regarding the robbery of a convenience store. According to the reports, Brown was suspected of robbing the store of $49 worth of cigars. 

It seemed as if Jackson was alleging that Wilson stopped Brown because he fit the description of the robbery suspect. 

The release of the convenience store security footage angered many people in Ferguson. Residents we spoke to believed it was released to tarnish Brown’s character and that it did nothing to justify the murder of the unarmed teenager. Later in the day, at another press conference, Police Chief Jackson told reporters that Brown’s alleged participation in the robbery of the convenience store had nothing to do with Wilson stopping him. 

“The initial contact between the officer and Mr. Brown was not related to the robbery,” said Jackson. “They were walking down the street, blocking traffic, that was it.”

It was a heartbreaking development. One that affirmed resident’s belief that Brown was gunned down simply for walking while black. As the day wore on, protestors took up their posts along Florissant Road, flashing signs, encouraging people driving by to honk their horns in support. A group in front of the QuikTrip that was burned down earlier this week began singing gospel songs. Behind them a drummer set up his drum kit and played while protestors danced and turned the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” chant into song. Despite the cloudy progressions from earlier in the day, the disposition of the people at the rally were, once again, surprisingly sunny.

Around 10 p.m., Captain Ron Johnson, walking with what looked like a congregation in tow, walked through the protestors shaking hands and talking with whoever could break through his handlers. He was accompanied by Congressman William Lacy Clay, Jr. The two made their way past the gospel circle and the impromptu dance party to a well-lit news tent. Congressman Clay spoke for a moment, before giving the mic to Captain Johnson. As he spoke, people in the crowd began to chant “we fed up, can’t take it no more!” and “Black power!” A man held a sign that read “NWA Was Right.” 

“You have been heard,” Johnson told the crowd. “The White House heard you.” 

The crowd, growing visibly more upset, responded, “We want arrests!” 

After speaking their piece, the Captain and Congressman continued down Florissant Road. It was then that the mood began to change. A number of younger people began to flood the block. Some were drinking and smoking, others were jumping on and off of cars, while drinking and smoking. 

A man standing nearby who told us his name was Bird, a 35-year-old longtime resident of Ferguson, gestured towards the street. 

“All that shit is too extra for me. I’m just out here protesting,” said Bird. “If they doing all this shit right now. Wait until the all this shit unfolds.” 

The “extra" shit continued into the night. Around 12:30 a.m. people on the scene began talking on Twitter about a clash between protestors and police. There were reports that some people were shooting guns into the air and that police responded by throwing flash grenades and tear gas. A stand-off ensued between police and protestors, as people lined up in front of the armored trucks. Police warned people not to approach or "you will be subject to arrest. Or something else."  

It wasn’t long after that Ferguson Market & Liquor and Feel Beauty Supply were broken into and looted. Residents, in an effort to protect the town and keep the protest on message, ran to protect the stores. All the while, the police stood idly by, inching closer to action as looters made their way down the street, looting other shops, like Sam's Meat Market, until finally people began to clear out around four a.m.

Stay tuned to Complex News for further developments.  

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