When the night started with peaceful protests, there were hopes from residents and police alike that things wouldn’t get out of hand in Ferguson, MO and that just maybe it would be an easy night. Tensions rose, however, as the evening progressed.
The evening started with protesters staying in one spot and peacefully assembling in front of the McDonald’s on West Florissant and cooperating with Ferguson Police. That did not last long. Near sundown, the crowd grew and became unruly prompting Ferguson Police to shut down W. Florissant and order the group of protesters in front of McDonald’s to “disperse immediately or be arrested.” The group, leaving the McDonald’s parking lot, proceeded north on W. Florissant towards Alliance Credit Union.
When police arrived at the Credit Union, protesters were once again peaceful and police are quoted as saying “…as long as they are peaceful, they are allowed to be there.”
Reports started coming across the St. Louis County police scanner that protesters were going to break the barricades they had set up (unsure at this time where the barricades were located).
*Note: At this point in the evening, there are approximately 3 hours I cannot account for because I was otherwise occupied and could not be present for any goings on. However, it seems during those 3 hours things were fairly quiet.*
A large demonstration started moving on W. Florissant. A police officer on the scene admitted that “every time the march come around, things start getting tense.” That was when the protesters stopped moving and congregated peacefully with their hands up, most of them worried that any hint of aggression might set off police.
At around 10:30PM (CST) is when things went awry when someone threw a small rock at the police line. Moments later, three Missouri Highway Tactical Team was en route to Ferguson and W. Florissant, with County Tactical on standby. When the armored vans showed up at the police line, protesters started throwing water bottles at the police. There were reports of Molotov Cocktails, but they were never confirmed. When Missouri Tactical arrived at the scene, they took the front line donning their helmets and riot shields as city police fell back behind the line of armored vehicles.
The crowd became even more unruly, prompting the SWAT team to deploy the LRAD (for those of you who don’t know, that’s a Long Range Acoustic Device a.k.a. “Sound Cannon” used to send messages, warnings, and harmful, pain inducing tones over longer distances than normal loudspeakers) to disperse the crowd. Police asked if they should “mask up” but were told no.
During the whole thing, the community seemed to be attempting to defuse the crowd. Members of the crowd were rushing around asking protesters to back off. Police once again, asking everyone to disperse. When they refused, the LRAD was once again deployed. Journalists on the scene state that a large group of people came up towards the police and started throwing water bottles, while police at W. Florissant and Canfield were having debris of all kinds thrown at them.
After the protesters were calmed, a group took to the streets carrying an American Flag high above them chanting “United We Stand! Divided We Fall!” This march lasted about 20 minutes, with the pastors and peacekeepers winning out and driving hundreds of people back north on W. Florissant.
Another group at West Florissant and Chambers, crossed paths with SWAT, but, surprisingly, passed without incident. They, then, crouched in front of the police with their hands in the air saying “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
Half an hour later, after no incident, the police were seen putting their gas masks on and came across the loudspeaker saying “Everyone needs to get off the street and get on the sidewalk.” A police helicopter flies overhead and you can feel the tensions rising again. LRAD is once again used it seems simply to get their attention. Once the LRAD is shut off, SWAT Team comes across the loudspeaker, “You must leave the area in a peaceful manner. Thank you for your cooperation.” Who knew that heavily armed SWAT has manners?
Police were there backing them up saying “You must continue walking.” Someone nearby told the other protesters “Walk in circles.”
Moments later SWAT is heard saying “If you are in the street, you are subject to arrest. Please get on the sidewalk.” (Once again, manners.) When protesters failed to heed their warning, SWAT again came across the loudspeaker “On the sidewalk…the sidewalk is behind the telephone pole.” (AND a sense of humor)
As they are slowly moving down the road, a man comes off the sidewalk and places a “DO NOT ENTER” road sign that he pulled from the ground in front of him. To this, the response from SWAT was “If you damage property or remove signs, you may be subject to arrest.” When he did not move, “If you are standing in the middle of the road with a sign you stole, you may be subject to arrest. Please put the sign back in the ground where you found it” was heard (again with the humor). People then started pouring into the streets saying “We paid for it [the sign]“. SWAT team members get out of their vehicles.
All members of the media were then asked to separate themselves from the protesters by the SWAT team. When protesters were told to move again (this time to disperse from the QuikTrip parking lot), they responded with chants of “Hell no! We won’t go!” and someone throwing a bottle, shattering it at police’s feet. At that moment, rifles were raised and masks were put on. They were cleared to deploy gas.
Some protesters took advantage of the situation and told others to get into the middle of the street. One of the protesters put his hands up and was quoted as saying “We’ve got our hands up, please don’t shoot.”
Smoke, tear gas and flash bangs were immediately deployed and another bottle is thrown. Now there is gas and smoke coming in from all directions. LRAD deployed yet again as reports come of Molotov Cocktails being thrown from the south. A fire was lit in the middle of West Florissant amid all the chaos and then there was a large amount of live ammo fire. Journalists said it was the most ammo they have heard at one time since this whole thing started. Police immediately told press to get out of the area and keep going.
At 11:30PM (CST) police told reporters they had to return to the designated press area. They also asked people to leave the Ferguson Market parking lot unless they had press credentials. Protesters refused to leave and police were seen escorting several people in plastic handcuffs back to the staging area.
Once all media was at the designated press area, police told them they will not be allowed to return to W. Florissant until after this is all over and that they had to pack up and leave immediately. The police then locked down West Florissant.
According to a press release later in the evening from Captain Ron Johnson of the Ferguson Police Department, at least two people were shot. No information on shooting victims other than they were both male.
We are told police did not deploy SWAT trucks until after violence broke out and they needed to retrieve a shooting victim.
There were numerous reports of shots fired, and two fires broke out. On West Florissant and Canfield, police underwent gunfire and were able to retrieve two guns. While police tried to secure the shooter’s car, media rushed over to take photos.
Despite shots fired at police, not a single officer returned fire tonight.
Molotov cocktails were used again tonight, and rocks were thrown at police.
As of 2:00AM (CST), 31 people have been arrested.
Captain Johnson asked that peaceful protesters come during daytime for their safety, though they have the right to come at night, so that police can collect the small minority of criminals who have come from as far as New York and California.
Media was asked to clear streets and not conflict with police action. Media also asked to not glamorize criminals. No journalists were apparently arrested tonight, though police may take some into custody in the midst of chaos due to not realizing who is a journalist or not – they are released.