FERGUSON, Mo. (CN) – Violence raged out of control Monday night in Ferguson, Mo., for the fourth consecutive night: two people were shot, 78 were arrested and two buildings were set on fire.
Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is in charge of security, said early Tuesday morning that 31 people had been arrested. Police upgraded that to 78 later Tuesday.
Capt. Johnson also blasted the media, telling reporters they were interfering with police and putting themselves in danger by not immediately clearing areas when asked by officers.
The presence of the Missouri National Guard, sent to Ferguson Monday by Gov. Jay Nixon, did not make a difference. Under orders from the governor, the Guard merely protected the police command post. They did not enforce security in the streets.
Gov. Nixon lifted the midnight curfew Monday, but officers appeared to still be enforcing it.
Monday’s violence began at 11 p.m. at the QuikTrip convenience store, when officers reported being shot at by protesters. Officers responded with tear gas and flash bangs.
“They tear gassed little kids, man!” said a man running from the scene.
At 9:45, tensions had flared three blocks south, when protesters threw water bottles at police.
A group of pastors and community leaders painstakingly persuaded the crowd to move back as a police sound-cannon filed the air.
“I don’t want our people gassed. I don’t want them hurt. I don’t want nobody killed,” Malik Shabazz, one of the peacekeepers, told Courthouse News. “I want us to exercise our First Amendment rights.”
Until then, the Monday night protest had gone on without major issues.
The crowd abided by a new rule that prohibits people from standing in one place on a Ferguson sidewalk for more than 5 seconds.
Earlier Monday, the ACLU challenged the 5-second rule in a constitutional complaint in Federal Court.
The protesters mainly marched in a circle on West Florissant between the QuikTrip to the north and Ferguson Avenue to the south.
Several protesters goaded police during the march. One man told a group of police officers: “There’s a lot of pork out here today.”
Another man told police: “Y’all don’t wear hoods anymore.”
A community group set up a barbecue pit and handed out free food and water to protesters in exchange for donations.
Police set up a media bullpen to the south, at Ferguson Avenue. No less than eight languages were heard from news crews in the bullpen.
One German journalist told his colleagues that the chant “no justice, no peace” translates into a command in his language, so he was having trouble with the translation.
Ferguson residents claim that outsiders are the ones who are starting the problems.
CNN reported that members of a white anarchist group caused issues with police on Monday.
“It’s not Ferguson residents,” local resident Sian Long told Courthouse News.
“It’s people from outside the area who want to entice the youth into doing different things, so the thing is, we’re trying to challenge them to make better decisions right now.”
“It’s nobody from Ferguson stealing,” Nestle Webster told Courthouse News. “When they said they arrested 32 people, the majority of those people were from East St. Louis. None of those people was from Ferguson.”
But while Ferguson residents agree that outsiders are causing most of the problems, they do not all agree on how police have handled the protests.
“I don’t mind it,” Mike Boyland told Courthouse News. “They (the police) are getting a bad rap right now, but they’re doing their jobs. It’s hard out here. There’s a lot of people and it’s hard on them.”
Webster criticized the police response on Sunday.
“It’s bull crap for real,” Webster said. “I don’t agree with it at all. How are you going to give us a curfew at 12 but shoot tear gas at us at 9:30 because you said somebody throw a bottle at you? Nobody threw a bottle at you.”
Amnesty International’s U.S. executive director was on the ground Monday and witnessed the tear gassing. Chris Hawkins said he was concerned about the militarization of the police guarding the protests.
“There is a breakdown here of law enforcement tactics that could be employed to deescalate the tension and here the police are clearly escalating it every night,” Amnesty’s Hawkins told Courthouse News.
Terri Bradley’s house sits just a couple of blocks from the protests on West Florissant. In the past week, she has dealt with increased car and foot traffic, blocked roads and noise.
But when the violence broke out Sunday, Bradley said, she felt like a prisoner in her own home.
“Last night, I heard the booms,” Bradley told Courthouse News. “I guess that was the tear gas and I heard multiple gunshots. It scared me to death and I ended up going into the corner of my room to shield myself because I didn’t know where it was coming from. It sounded like it was in my back yard.”
President Obama has asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to visit Ferguson on Wednesday.
CNS reporter Joe Harris (@joeharris_stl) will be tweeting updates from Ferguson.
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