FERGUSON, Mo. (CN) – At least a dozen buildings burned Monday night and several vehicles were torched after a grand jury declined to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Michael Brown to death on Aug. 9.
After Wilson, who is white, shot Brown, who was black, the streets of Ferguson saw nightly protests against police, sometime violent.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said Monday night was by far the worst for violence and destruction.
“We had a lot of incidents with officers being hit with rocks and batteries and things like that,” Belmar said. “I can personally tell you that I heard about 150 rounds fired.”
Protesters took to the streets after St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced Monday evening that Wilson would not face criminal charges.
Two St. Louis County police cars were burned just south of the Ferguson Police Department.
Protesters stood near the conflagration chanting, “Whose cars? Our cars!”
A 22-year-old black man named Judah said the violence was good.
“It doesn’t accomplish anything but feeling good at the end of the day,” Judah told Courthouse News. “All of this could have been avoided if (Wilson) had done his job. Police are trained not to kill. He could have shot him in the leg. He could have used his Taser.”
Judah wasn’t surprised that Wilson was found innocent.
“It’s OK, he just killed another black person,” Judah said. “Back in the day, we were treated as three-fifths of a man and we’re still treated as three-fifths of a man. We’re not equal. I’m not talking about everybody. I’m talking about the police.”
Most of the building fires occurred near where Brown was killed. A beauty supply store, a meat market and a storage facility were among the casualties.
The buildings burned to the ground. Fire crews could not get in to the area due to sporadic gun fire.
As Ferguson burned, so did the emotions of the protesters.
“It’s bullshit,” John, a 32-year-old white man, told Courthouse News. “If I would have done the same thing, I would have been locked up the same day and I would still be locked up.
“The police in this country are out of control, whether it is this thing or traffic tickets. (St. Louis) city is locking people up for 90 days for traffic tickets. What happened to not having a debtors’ prison in this country?”
A mile north, there were building fires on every corner of the intersection of West Florissant and Chambers, two busy roads at the Ferguson and Dellwood border. Two vehicles were burned there.
Earlier on West Florissant, an angry mob busted out the windows of a St. Louis County police car and began rocking it. They had to be dispersed with tear gas.
In Dellwood, multiple cars were set on fire on a car dealership parking lot.
“It’s a little much,” John said of the violence. “At the same time, if you keep pushing people like this, then this is the only way they can get their point across.”
The protests spread to south St. Louis, where protesters temporarily shut down Interstate 44. While that protest began peacefully, it descended into widespread looting along south Grand Boulevard.
Belmar said at least 29 people were arrested and a semiautomatic handgun was confiscated. He said no gunshots were fired by officers.
“I’m disappointed in this evening,” Belmar said. “I really don’t have any hesitation in telling you that I didn’t see a lot of peaceful protest out there tonight.”
Similar protests occurred in New York, Washington D.C., Seattle and Oakland. There were no known reports of violence from those protests.
County prosecutor Bob McCulloch had announced the grand jury’s decision not to indict at around 8 p.m. on Monday in Clayton, Mo.
“Everything was given to the grand jury, it was all put in front of them,” McCulloch said in a press conference. “And 12 people made a decision based upon all that evidence that as tragic as this is, that this is not a case that should go to trial.”
Brown’s parents, Lesley McFadden and Michael Brown, Sr., expressed their disappointment in the grand jury decision but urged supporters to “channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change.”
“We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen,” Brown’s parents said in a statement. “Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera. We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful. Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction.”
Many residents feared a return of the violence once the grand jury’s decision was announced.
Some Missouri mailboxes were taped closed earlier in the day for fear of bombs as the entire St. Louis region was gripped with tension over the impending announcement.
Streets were tense Monday in St. Louis area as people awaited the grand jury’s decision.
Government buildings in Clayton, St. Louis County’s seat 12 miles south of Ferguson, were barricaded, as were some government buildings in St. Louis.
Trash cans in Clayton were removed and some mailboxes were taped closed in anticipation of unrest.
Many schools in the St. Louis area canceled classes or canceled evening activities Monday.
Brown supporters claimed he had his hands up and was giving himself up when Wilson shot him.
Wilson claimed his life was in danger after Brown assaulted him in his police car and went for his gun.
The shooting sparked months of nightly protests against police. Throughout the protests, Brown supporters demanded that Wilson be charged with murder, sometimes with a chant: “Who do we want? Darren Wilson! How do we want him? Dead!”
Wilson was placed on leave and has left Missouri. He is not expected to return to the Ferguson police force, whether indicted or not.
Gov. Jay Nixon declared a State of Emergency and activated the National Guard on Nov. 17. Nixon and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay told reporters that the National Guard will play a secondary role, supporting police, but will not confront protesters directly.
Wilson’s testimony to the grand jury begins on page 195 of the report.
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