Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American
ST. LOUIS—What started as a peaceful prayer vigil for Michael Brown, the unarmed teen who was killed Aug. 9 by Ferguson police, ended in an explosion of looting and destruction in the North County area surrounding where the tragedy took place–and beyond.
Hundreds gathered at 8 p.m., Aug. 10, for a peaceful candlelight vigil in the young man’s honor. Before 9 p.m. police would summon surrounding municipalities as the crowd turned aggressive.
The Target parking lot of the Buzz Westfall Shopping Center was filled with dozens and dozens of police vehicles and the area of West Florissant from Jennings to Ferguson was blocked off. Helicopters and tanks–as well as vehicles from a host of area departments–descended on West Florissant as looting and vandalism got underway.
Incidents kicked off with the damage of police cars along West Florissant and a KMOV-TV news van.
By 10 p.m. the Ferguson QuikTrip–initially thought to be the catalyst for the turn of events that led to Brown’s death- was targeted. Before night’s end, it would be up in flames.
Hundreds of police were in the area as several area businesses were besieged in North County. According to KTVI.com, the list of establishments that experienced varying degrees of damages included:
Zisser Tire and Auto, AutoZone, Family Dollar, Walmart, Footlocker, Ross, Walgreens, Shoe Carnival, Hibbett Sports, Taco Bell, Sprint Store, K-Mart, DTLR, Phillips 66 and Meineke.
It would be nearly 2 a.m. before the situation was under control.
Early on in the evening after the protest transitioned from the initial vigil, a member of the Brown family condemned the actions while speaking with Fox 2.
“[We] just want everyone to know and understand that the stealing and breaking in stores is not what Mike will want, it is very upsetting to me and my family. Our family didn’t ask for this but for Justice and Peace…. Please let my family grieve in Peace in stop the violence in the street tonight, we don’t want this happening when we protest for justice for my cousin Mike Brown, please get this message out to the people that the Mike Brown family do not want this.”
According to County Police, nearly three dozen were arrested as a result of the night’s activities.
Tensions increased over the weekend as Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in Ferguson, which was accompanied by a midnight to 5 a.m. curfew. Although various groups, including a member of the New Black Panther Party, urged people to observe the curfew and continue with peaceful protests, reports are many opted to stay out in defiance of the governor’s orders.
On Aug. 16, the scene erupted into a clash between police and citizens with the police firing tear gas into a crowd. Reports from Ferguson say one protester was shot—reportedly by another protester—and seven were arrest.
Community attitudes had flared after police finally released the name of Darren Wilson, the officer who had killed the unarmed Brown in a confrontation. But, many were angered by the accompanying release of a video and other information claiming that Brown was a suspect in a robbery that was committed earlier the day he was shot. Ferguson police officials, however, conceded that Wilson did not know that at the time of the confrontation between him and Brown.
Tensions heightened even more on Sunday in the wake of reports that an independent autopsy show that Brown had been shot at least six times and there was no indication of a struggle prior to the shooting, contradicting earlier police information. Dozens of people reportedly were arrested after police say they came under assault from gunfire and Molotov cocktails. Governor Nixon has called out the National Guard in Ferguson, emphasizing people’s rights to protest peacefully but admonishing those who have been involved in looting and violence, and calling those elements outsiders.
According to a report in the Times Journeys, Nixon told the press: “Tonight, a day of hope, prayers and peaceful protests was marred by the violent criminal acts of an organized and growing number of individuals, many from outside the community and state, whose actions are putting the residents and businesses of Ferguson at risk.”
Information for part of this article was taken from various other news reports including KMOV.com and Fox 2 contributed to this report.