Ferguson in focus: A look back at a community upended

  • Anthony Blocker, 36, walks home from going to the store on Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 27, 2014. The lesions on his face, he said, were due to a non-protest-related incident involving running from local police. On the right, Pampas grass grown on a snowy hill on South Florissant Road on Thanksgiving Day, 2014.
  • Children dance to music playing from a truck with the words “no shoot, no loot” written on it and parked in a lot on West Florissant Ave. during a protest on Aug. 19, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. Moments later riot police insisted that the protesters keep marching in circles around the designated protest area and not stop to dance.
  • A police officer poses for a portrait outside Red’s BBQ on West Florissant Ave., Aug. 21, 2014, left. On the right, police lights illuminate a tree off of West Florissant Ave on Aug. 19. 
  • Members of the Missouri National Guard are posted in a deserted parking lot on West Florissant Ave. following a week of unrest after a grand jury voted not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, Nov. 28, 2014.
  • Clara Thornton, left, 87, poses for a portrait in her car on the corner of West Florissant Ave. and Ferguson, in Ferguson, Mo., Aug. 21, 2014. “I love peace and harmony and joy,” she said. “And I’m praying for both sides, black and white, we’re all children of god.” On the right, a poster of raised hands is pasted on a shuttered business on West Florissant Ave., Nov. 28, 2014.
  • Marcus Mopkins, 20, wipes the sweat from his brow before posing for a portrait on West Florissant Ave., Aug. 19, 2014. On the right, a church is boarded up and labeled “Black Church” as a message to potential looters or arsonists on West Florissant Ave., Nov. 28, 2014.
  • A car that was reportedly burned during riots earlier in the week sits in the Canfield Apartments complex, Nov. 27, 2014, left. On the right, a protester holds out munitions casing she said she found on West Florrisant Ave., Aug. 20, 2014.
  • Janelle Johnson poses for a portrait outside a laundromat on South Florissant Road. “I’ve lived her for 14 years. I feel let down. I feel like the riots were a conspiracy, nobody from here would do that. I own a car wash, I invested for my business with my husband for our sons. We’re hard working people. The week before that man killed Mike Brown, he was one of the police that arrested my husband in our house when our own burglar alarm went off. I cried the whole night. Me and my husband put our whole lives into our work, for our kids.”
  • A young girl reaches out to catch the rain as she and her family take cover from a sudden downpour during protests in Ferguson, Mo., Aug. 20, 2014. Right, a helicopter flies above tall grass growing on South Florissant road during protests, Nov. 28, 2014.
  • On the left, Sean Wilson, Nov. 29, 2014, is photographed in front of a laundromat on South Florissant Road. “I knew Mike Brown, he used to come into Red’s [BBQ, which burned in the riots] three times a week with back pack over his shoulder. He was a good kid. Not a gang banger. Not a dope dealer. He was not a menace to society. He was a big, gentle kid. I’ve been shot twice and I tell you what, the first thing you think about when you’re shot is death. You’re not charging anybody. You’re about to go into shock. I heard they were going around taking away people’s phones who had cell phone video of the incident. I don’t think thats right.” On the right, a meeting of about 300 protesters is held at the St. Marks AME church in Ferguson, Mo., Nov. 29, 2014.
  • A National Guard humvee drives past a Target store in Ferguson, Mo., Aug. 19, 2014. On the right, police lights illuminate a tree off of West Florissant Ave. on Aug. 19.  
  • The Michael Brown memorial in the center of Canfield Road where he was killed is covered in snow, Nov. 27, 2014, left. On the right, Ohio brothers Carl Popp, Jr., 18, and Robert Popp, 17, pose for a portrait on West Florissant Ave. on Aug. 21, 2014.
  • A store in Chesterfield Mall in Chesterfield, Mo., Nov. 28, 2014, left. On the right, National Guard troops stand in front of Marley’s, a bar on South Florissant Ave., where patrons have been confronting demonstrators in recent protests.
  • A man watches the scene of the shooting death of Kajieme Powell, 25, a mentally handicapped man after an incident at Six Stars Market in St. Louis, Mo., Aug. 19, 2014. The shooting occurred just minutes away from nearby Ferguson where protests continued in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown. On the right, Dontey Carter, 23, poses near the Canfield Apartment complex where a Michael Brown was killed. “One day,” he said, “if I can’t get the money together to move somewhere else, my children will be raised in this community, and I never want them to be subjected to the kind of police brutality we are subjected to now.”
  • Shattered glass is seen outside of a broken window on West Florissant Ave, Nov. 28, 2014, left. On the right, a National Guard soldier guards a gas station on West Florissant Ave, Nov. 30, 2014.
  • A police helicopter circles over Ferguson, Mo., Nov. 29, 2014.

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Ever since anger first flared in Ferguson, Missouri over Michael Brown’s death in August, there have been many striking and now-iconic images of confrontations between protesters and police, sophisticated military-style weaponry, and damaged or burned out buildings. The effect has sometimes been to turn this city into a far-off war zone, precluding empathy in response. 

But Ferguson, of course, is also a Midwestern suburb that is home to regular people, black and white, who have their own perspectives on what has happened. In recent months, with little warning, residents have seen that home become a national stage on which the dramas of race and justice can play out. Photojournalist Natalie Keyssar traveled there for msnbc over the summer, and returned last month in the wake of news that Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Brown, would not be charged. Many of the most striking pictures she took, shown here, focus on these ordinary Ferguson residents as they try to make sense of what they’ve seen and felt around them.

As the activism spawned by Brown’s death emerges into a nationwide movement for reform of the police and criminal justice systems, Keyssar’s photos are a reminder that when the protests and press conferences are finally over and the media have gone home, life for most in Ferguson will go on – for better or worse.

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