Tension Spreads After Unarmed Teen’s Death

FERGUSON, Mo. (CN) – Police fired tear gas into a crowd of protestors as tensions flared for a second day in a St. Louis suburb torn by violence after a police officer killed an unarmed teenager.
     Police shot tear gas after a crowd of several hundred gathered in front of a QuikTrip that was looted and burned Sunday night amid widespread rioting . The riots broke out after a vigil in honor of Michael Brown, 18, who was fatally shot by police Saturday.
     Most of the crowd broke up, but at least 50 remained along West Florissant Road, a major roadway in Ferguson.
     Police in riot gear took a position south of the crowd and advanced north, a block or two every half hour. Through a speaker system, police repeatedly told the crowd to go home, and threatened the crowd – and media – with tear gas and arrest if they did not disperse.
     The repeated demands of the crowd to go home seemed only to agitate the crowd.
     “We are home! You go home!” screamed several protestors.
     Others screamed, “The world is watching!”
     Others in the crowd claimed that they lived behind the police line and couldn’t go home.
     Several cars drove by the police line blaring the rap song “Fuck the Police.”
     Police shot tear gas again and fired what appeared to be rubber bullets, forcing reporters to take shelter behind parked vehicles.
     Mary Chandler, 36, from nearby Berkeley, Mo., told Courthouse News that she did not agree with the violence the night before and was urging the protestors to keep things peaceful.
     “Do I think it was the right thing? No,” Chandler said of the looting. “Do I think it brought the attention that was needed? Yes. All eyes are here. Do I think that we should do it again? No. But I feel like there’s only so far you can push somebody before they get to the point where it’s too much to bear and I think that’s what’s going on.”
     Chandler said she does not believe the issues in Ferguson are racial, as in the Los Angeles riots in 1992. Ferguson, pop. 21,135, is a working class suburb in north St. Louis County that is 65 percent African-American.
     Chandler said it is a citizen-versus-police issue.
     She said she has been harassed by Ferguson police and knows countless others who have been too, no matter the color of their skin.
     Chandler favors peaceful demonstration and had her 15-year-old daughter, Aniya Betts, with her. After one of the police’s demands to go home, Betts responded, “I play kickball here!”
     Most of the protestors seemed to share Chandler’s wish for a peaceful protest. Some, though, taunted police.
     A car drove toward the police line with a young man hanging out of the sunroof. The car turned in front of police, the man holding his hands on his head and repeatedly screaming, “Don’t shoot me!”
     When police drew back to the QuikTrip, a van drove up to the line and the driver got out and started jawing at police. He eventually got back into the van and drove away without incident.
     Moments later, the crowd advanced to about 75 yards from police.
     One person yelled to reporters, telling them to talk to the police for them because the reporters had power. When the reporters didn’t do as he wanted, the man called the reporters “media pigs” and physically threatened them.
     Soon, police began advancing on the crowd in one final push. During the advance, police told reporters that they would be arrested if they didn’t leave and would receive no special treatment.
     Some of the crowd started throwing rocks at police, who did not respond. As the police kept advancing, the crowd began to disperse.
     There were no reports of arrests or injuries. Another protest is scheduled for today.
     Some protestors are calling for the immediate firing of the police officer involved in the shooting, and want him charged with murder.
     The Rev. Al Sharpton, founder of the civil rights watchdog the National Action Network, will meet with Brown’s family this week.
     U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced a federal investigation into the shooting on Monday.
     “The shooting incident in Ferguson, Missouri this weekend deserves a fulsome review,” Holder said in a statement. “In addition to the local investigation already underway, FBI agents from the St. Louis field office, working together with attorneys from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney’s Office have opened a concurrent federal inquiry. The federal investigation will supplement, rather than supplant, the inquiry by local authorities. At every step, we will work with the local investigators, who should be prepared to complete a thorough, fair investigation in their own right. I will continue to receive regular updates on this matter in the coming days. Aggressively pursuing investigations such as this is critical for preserving trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

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