It has been a week since Michael Brown was shot and killed in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, and Sunday began a state-imposed curfew enforced by five armored vehicles and multiple police. The area remains volatile as seven people were arrested for failure to disperse and one person was shot and is in critical condition.
Captain Ron Johnson had exerted a calming influence, walking with the protesters and listening to their complaints. He maintains people have a right to protest, but points out, in anger, protesters must “make sure we do not burn our own house.” He maintains Friday night was a “great night” with no arrests and no tear gas. Some have called him the “hero” of this affair, bringing calm and communication into a serious situation.
Store owners had a different view of Friday night. They had to protect their businesses with their own guns, declaring, “There is no police.” There were around 200 protesters with some throwing rocks and other items at the officers. Some began looting the convenience store that Michael Brown was accused of robbing. Information had been released showing Brown taking a box of cigars worth $48.99 and when a man tried to stop him Brown “forcefully pushed him back” into a display rack.
Darren Wilson has been identified as the officer who shot Brown. He has been on the police force for six years with no complaints against him. Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson described him as “a gentle, quiet man” and “an excellent officer.”
Benjamin Crump, a family lawyer, declares police are giving out information to help justify what they are calling the “execution-style” killing. Crump was also the attorney for Trayvon Martin’s family, the teenager shot in Florida. The family said the release of information was an attempt at “character assassination” of their son. Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson responded that he “had to” revealing that too many had requested freedom of information reports.
The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a civil rights investigation of the shooting. 40 FBI agents are going door-to-door seeking information.
Niger Innis, national spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) acknowledged “we do need to communicate better,” and called Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and others “racial arsonists” who constituted a danger to our communities. He pointed out that the same week 26 blacks were shot in Chicago, saying “It is safer for a young black male to be in Iraq and Afghanistan than on the streets of Chicago.”
On Saturday, Governor Jay Nixon declared Ferguson in a state of emergency and imposed a curfew from midnight to five a.m., with police ready to enforce it. Some had said the violence was being carried out by people outside of Ferguson, some even outside of the state.
When police in Ferguson attempted to enforce curfew, protesters chanted “No justice! No curfew!” and refused to go home. Officers donned face masks and shot smoke and tear gas canisters into the crowd. Jayson Ross, leading the protesters declared, “They got guns. We got guns. We are ready.” Police announced “failure to comply may result in arrest” and before the night was over seven people were arrested with one person shot and in critical condition.
By Laurie Stilwell