Ferguson, MO erupted in flames and rioting Monday night after the grand jury announcement that Darren Wilson will not face charges in the death of Michael Brown. The much-anticipated, and to some expected verdict was announced 8:00 p.m. CST to the dismay of many demonstrators. Not long after the decision was made public loud chanting could be heard outside of the Ferguson police station as well as other meeting locations around the city.
The streets have quieted down after a long night of unrest but fires continued to smolder in and around Ferguson. Protesters taunted law enforcement, burned two St. Louis County police cars, looted and set fire to local businesses and wreaked havoc around the city. Reports of intermittent gunfire were reported by ABC News as well as Vice News correspondent Danny Gold on the streets of Ferguson during the unrest. Shell casings fired by unknown shooters littered the streets of Ferguson the following morning.
Police Chief Jon Belmar of the St. Louis County Police stated at 1:30 a.m. CST that more than a dozen buildings were burning and at least 150 gunshots were heard, none being fired from police he iterated. One officer was shot in the melee but he was not seriously hurt and expected to make a full recovery. Belmar stated that the unrest Monday night was worse than the protests experienced back in August.
Troops of police officers armed with heavy artillery and riot gear dispersed a crowd of demonstrators with rounds of tear gas, bean bags, and pepper spray. The ensuing chaos led to the grounding of flights in and out of St. Louis’ Lambert International Airport until early Tuesday morning providing a safe environment for the activities of law enforcement according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Businesses were vandalized and looted including a Walgreens store that was ransacked, a Family Dollar and an AutoZone which were burned to the ground, as well as a Mobil gas station, a Little Caesars pizzeria, and a local beauty shop. The residents of Ferguson and the surrounding areas disgusted by the lack of an indictment took to the streets and flames erupted from local businesses and rioting ensued.
By midnight most of the crowd had dissipated but few out-of-town agitators remained. At the peak of the protests, demonstrators hurled objects at police officers as protesters chanted, “No justice, no peace, no racist police.”
Demonstrations were held around the country as well. Hundreds marched through Union Square in New York. Protesters were corralled and kept isolated in the northern end of the square behind a line of law enforcement. That did not keep the protesters back as they pushed aside police barricades and advanced on the southern part of the square where kiosks for the upcoming holidays were set up.
In Arizona, an estimated 60 people arrived at Tempe Town Lake breaking off into two groups after disagreements over protest tactics. One group walked on towards the local police station and court building voicing anti-police rhetoric. The second group peacefully walked in a separate direction.
In Oakland, protesters laid down in the middle of an intersection in a display of silent protest. Afterwards, they marched down Broadway and then moved on to Interstate 580 stopping all westbound traffic for roughly an hour.
In Detroit, people gathered in front of the Theodore Levin United States Federal Courthouse and in Philadelphia, hundreds of protesters marched through downtown. In Pittsburgh, demonstrations were short-lived but activists planned to regroup the following day in front of the federal courthouse.
When the verdict was announced there was an ominous silence as the people exhaled and took in the news. Loud chanting erupted with car horns blaring and shouting matches between protesters and police as flames licked the night sky and rioting broke out in parts of Ferguson. Per raw footage from Vice News correspondent Danny Gold, armored vehicles and law enforcement in heavy riot gear and M-16 machine guns, street by street, cleared the area of protesters advising that it was an “unlawful assembly” and everyone had to leave or face arrest.
“This ain’t Iraq,” yelled demonstrator Demetric Whitlock to a line of officers on South Florissant Road, “This is the United States!” Images from Missouri the following morning were reminiscent of a war zone. Rows of businesses on Florissant Avenue were in flames. Rows of vehicles including police cars were turned into fireballs. Firefighters were unable to respond to every blaze. According to CNN, their own correspondent, Sara Sidner, was struck in the head with a bottle.
Bret Berigan, spokesman for St. Louis’ Christian Hospital, stated they treated and released six people with minor injuries stemming from the violence. By Tuesday morning, most of the unrest had subsided including outside of the police department where National Guards were providing security under orders of Gov. Jay Nixon.
No one believes that this is the end of the unrest. Tensions remain high and an encore could play out at any time as Ferguson very likely erupts again in more flames and rioting. The residents hold a real grudge towards law enforcement, according to Whitlock, and the grudge is not expected to go away any time soon.
By Stevenson Benoit
Lead Photo by: Andrew Reilly – Flickr License