FERGUSON, Mo. – Protesters returned to the streets of Ferguson Tuesday for a predominantly peaceful night of demonstrations that eventually gave way to small and isolated outbursts of damage to local businesses and property on a night marked by a heightened National Guard presence.
Scores of demonstrators braved the bitter cold and gathered before the Ferguson Police Department Tuesday night as isolated flare-ups of destruction to public property and tense stand-offs between the crowd and police at times resulted in protesters being taken away into custody. Forty-five arrests were made, compared to the 82 arrests from Monday evening. Two FBI agents were shot early Wednesday morning in north St. Louis County, though the police department knows of no connection to the Ferguson protests.
The protests and outbursts come on the second day since the much-anticipated announcement from a St. Louis grand jury, which decided to not indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of an unarmed teen, Michael Brown. In a case that has sparked national outrage, news of the announcement brought thousands of Brown’s supporters from around the world to gather in a show of solidarity.
In Ferguson, news of Wilson’s fate was met on Monday with rounds of violence as many local businesses were either vandalized, or even torched to the ground by a small crowd of protesters. Echoes of the outbursts of vandalism returned Tuesday night, as small groups of people set fire near a police cruiser, and busted in the glass door of Ferguson City Hall. Later, explosives and rocks were seen hurled through the window of a local business after members of the crowd threw more objects at police and their vehicles.
Earlier Tuesday, Gov. Jay Nixon pledged to beef up law enforcement here to prevent a second night of violence over the non-indictment of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown Jr. Lawyers for Brown’s family harshly criticized the grand jury process and the handling of the case by county prosecutor Robert McCulloch, saying McCulloch had a “symbiotic relationship” with local police that had tainted his impartiality.Swaths of Ferguson lay in ruins Tuesday following a night of lawlessness and looting that resulted in arrests and at least a dozen buildings burned to the ground. Nixon, whose promise last week to send National Guard troops to Ferguson following the grand jury’s decision fell badly short Monday night, insisted during a press conference Tuesday the problems would not be repeated.
“We will provide safety and security in the region,” Nixon said, alerting the community that 2,200 national guardsmen would be in place Tuesday night.
Ferguson Mayor James Knowles on Tuesday said that the National Guard wasn’t deployed soon enough, calling the misstep “deeply concerning.” Earlier, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Police Chief Sam Dotson indicated officials would be prepared for another night of potential violence. “You will see an intervention much more quickly than you did last night,” Slay said.
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Weighing in Tuesday afternoon, Attorney General Eric Holder expressed disappointment over Monday night’s violence. “I was disappointed that some members of the community resorted to violence rather than respecting what I thought were the really heartfelt words of Michael Brown Sr. and the wishes he expressed about how he wanted his son’s memory to be honored with nonviolence,” Holder said in a statement, adding that he personally briefed President Obama “about the situation in Ferguson.”
Brown’s parents, who earlier said they were ”profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions,” were expected to address the media in a press conference on Tuesday from St. Louis, but chose not to do so. Instead, the family’s attorneys, Benjamin Crump and Anthony Gray, noted that the evidence released by McCulloch’s office raised even more questions about potential bias from the prosecutor’s office.
“We condemn the violence of last night but we also condemn the violence of August 9,” Crump said.
Wilson spoke for the first time Tuesday night since the non-indictment in an interview with ABC. The interview will air in three parts, beginning Tuesday on “World News With David Muir.” Wilson released a letter Monday evening thanking his supporters.
Chaos erupted in the streets Monday evening immediately following the prosecutor’s announcement. Demonstrations that began peacefully took a nasty turn, despite President Obama urging calm in a brief address from the White House, as looters plundered local stores and protesters flipped cars and set buildings and police vehicles ablaze. Chief Jon Belmar of the St. Louis Police Department said police had been hit with rocks almost immediately after McCulloch made his statement. Despite reports of over 150 shots of gunfire, no officers or citizens lost their lives.
“I didn’t see a lot of peaceful protest out there tonight,” said Belmar. “What I’ve seen tonight is probably much worse than the worst night we ever had in August.”
Protests also erupted nationwide, from New York City and Washington, D.C., to Chicago and Oakland, California. Americans took to Twitter with the hashtag #PrayForFerguson to express dismay and prayers amid the protests.
Brown, 18, was shot and killed by Wilson in broad daylight on Aug. 9, following an altercation that ended with Wilson shooting the unarmed teenager at least six times, autopsies revealed. Police say Wilson, who is white, shot the black teen in self-defense after Brown reached for the officer’s gun through the window of the police car. Brown’s body was left in the hot street for hours before it was removed from the scene. The grand jury, which began its deliberations on Aug. 20, included six white men, three white women, two black women and one black man. A majority vote of nine was needed to indict Wilson.
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The Congressional Black Caucus called the decision a “slap in the face” to Americans. “The Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown is a miscarriage of justice. It is a slap in the face to Americans nationwide who continue to hope and believe that justice will prevail,” Chairwoman Marcia Fudge posted Monday night on the group’s Facebook page.
Late Monday night, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) formed the “Journey for Justice.” The NAACP, along with senior and youth organizations, will embark on a 120 mile, seven-day march from the Canfield Green Apartments — the complex associated with Brown’s shooting — to the Missouri Governor’s Mansion in Jefferson City. They are calling for new leadership of the Ferguson Police Department and reforms of law enforcement practice and culture across the country. During the journey, which is set to begin Saturday morning, marchers will participate in teach-ins and rallies.
“The death of Michael Brown and actions by the Ferguson Police Department is a distressing symptom of the untested and overaggressive policing culture that has become commonplace in communities of color all across the country,” said Cornell William Brooks, NAACP president and CEO.
Holder, for his part, confirmed that a federal investigation into the incident would continue to determine whether civil rights charges should be filed against Wilson.