Violence Returns to Ferguson, After Police Accuse Shooting Victim of Robbery
FERGUSON, Mo. (CN) - Protests in Ferguson, Mo., turned violent again late Friday night. Shortly before midnight, a protester threw a bottle at police, who responded by putting on riot gear and bringing out armored trucks. Gov. Jay Nixon on Saturday ordered a curfew on the streets of Ferguson, to last from midnight to 5 a.m.
Police set off smoke bombs and flash bangs. Protesters moved back but refused to leave. At one point, protesters locked arms and turned their backs to the police.
Some people in the crowd started looting at 1:15 a.m. Several stores were hit, including the Food Mart convenience store which Ferguson police claimed Michael Brown was suspected robbing of a box of Swisher Sweets just minutes before his death.
Shortly after the looting started, other protesters rushed to protect stores and stop the looters.
At 1:40 a.m., most of the protesters marched away from police.
KMOV-TV reported that a shooting victim was taken to the hospital and an officer was hit by a brick. No other arrests or injuries were reported by early Saturday.
The violence marred what had been a second consecutive day of a festive peaceful protest.
Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson told KMOV-TV that a large group of protesters began to advance on the Food Mart. Police had stationed themselves on the Food Mart parking lot and the crowd wouldn't let officers leave the lot.
"One can of tear gas was utilized, which allowed to get about 20 officers off the parking lot," Johnson said. "After we got back to the command post, a large group of about 200 began to walk towards our location here. We decided to send out tactical vehicles and TAC and SWAT team to form a skirmish line across the roadway to stop their behavior."
Police then saw several stores being looted.
"That's not what the protest is about. That's not what all the people who have been here yesterday and today walking down the street (are about)," Johnson said. "This behavior that we saw tonight is riot-type behavior and we have to change that."
The Rev. Jesse Jackson marched through the main protest area and to the site where Brown was killed, at about 6 p.m. Saturday.
Jackson led the group in prayer and called for peace.
"Police do not have the power to be judge, jury and executioner," Jackson told Courthouse News. "The police are still trying to cover their flanks. We need a full and thorough investigation."
Jackson also stressed the importance of becoming registered voters and getting to the polls. The message was well-received by an adoring throng.
"Who we let in our office controls our government and our suburbs," Maurice Brown told Courthouse News. "So we have to motivate our people to out to the polls and that's the only way we're gong to change it."
On Friday morning, Ferguson police released the name of the officer who shot Brown: Darren Wilson, 28, with a clean record. Wilson and his family are in California for safety.
Ferguson police also released the police report on Brown's alleged theft of a box of Swisher Sweets from the convenience store and the store's surveillance video that allegedly shows Brown shoving the store owner as he left.
The release of the video angered many of the protesters.
"It was a pure distraction to try to lose focus, and everybody needs to keep focus," Regina Fitzgerald told Courthouse News. "But as usual, the chief put his foot in his mouth because he came out and said that that police officer did not know anything about any robbery. He was patrolling and being himself. He was being himself."
Congressman William Lacy Clay questioned the motivation for releasing the surveillance video.
"When you look at the intent of the information that was released today, I look at that as a ploy to negatively influence any jury pool that could be pooled together in St. Louis County," Clay, D-St. Louis, told reporters.
The release of the footage angered Brown's family.
"Michael Brown's family is beyond outraged at the devious way the police chief has chosen to disseminate piecemeal information in a manner intended to assassinate the character of their son, following such a brutal assassination of his person in broad daylight," the Brown family attorneys said in a statement.
"There is nothing based on the facts that have been placed before us that can justify the execution-style murder of their child by this police officer as he held his hands up, which is the universal sign of surrender.
"The prolonged release of the officer's name and then the subsequent alleged information regarding a robbery is the reason why the family and the local community have such distrust for the local law enforcement agencies.
"It is no way transparent to release the still photographs alleged to be Michael Brown and refuse to release the photographs of the officer that executed him.
"The police strategy of attempting to blame the victim will not divert our attention from being focused on the autopsy, ballistics report and the trajectory of the bullets that caused Michael's death and will demonstrate to the world this brutal execution of an unarmed teenager."
Capt. Johnson said he believes the release of the tapes led to the violence Friday night.
"We talked all day about the release of this videotape from the Food Mart," Johnson said. "We had concerns that this would happen. So I would not be honest if I said I was surprised by the activity around the Food Mart today."