FERGUSON, Mo. — Ferguson, Mo. is a small, oddly shaped suburb bounded on three sides by interstate highways. It’s maybe two suburbs over from St. Louis in a land of endless little burgs that run haphazardly together.
Ferguson is clean. It’s halfway quaint. The side streets are lined with big, leafy trees and decently-maintained ranch-style houses. Except for these nightly riots of recent vintage, this town of 21,203 has a strong working-class vibe.
West Florissant Avenue is the main drag where most of the protesting and rioting has happened. It’s your basic Midwestern city thoroughfare featuring numerous small businesses. Northland Chop Suey. Crystal Nails. There are national chains, too. The gleaming McDonald’s down by Ferguson Avenue — the one where Huffington Post reporter Ryan J. Reilly cried — is a major hub. Business has boomed there since the Aug. 9 police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Another local business that has boomed recently is A.M. Richards Glass Co., which has been sending crews to board up local businesses and replace shattered glass storefronts.
It was a cloudy, muggy Sunday afternoon when two intrepid reporters from The Daily Caller arrived on the scene — in the parking lot of a still boarded-up restaurant called The Original Reds BBQ (where someone had installed a port-a-potty).
Daytime would be a much different experience than the chaos brought by nightfall. The mood among the small pockets of protesters during the afternoon was a reasonably festive anger. It was sort of like an unhappy parade.
Most everyone who showed up was black. The people who were not black were virtually all journalists, nutty activists or socialist agitators thinking maybe, this time, their moment has come.
The focal point of Sunday afternoon’s action was the totally-looted, burned-out QuikTrip where surveillance video allegedly shows Michael Brown forcefully procuring his last box of cigars. The south side of the QuikTrip has been covered in a massive piece of graffiti saying “RIP Mike” and “Fuck da police.” Smaller bits of graffiti absolutely infest the other remains of the QuikTrip.
Across the street, on the asphalt in front of a carwash, representatives from a company called Life Wireless had set up a yellow-and-green information tent.
Life Wireless is a company that provides free cell phone service. To be eligible, your income must be below a certain amount or you must participate in one of seven government assistance programs (e.g., food stamps). While the free phone program preceded President Barack Obama’s administration, you might know it under its more colloquial name: “Obama phones.”
“We just want to come out here where people was at,” one of the phone hawkers told TheDC.
Next to the cell phone representatives, two guys were selling “Justice For Michael Brown” T-shirts out of the back of a van. The cost for a shirt was $15. Several sizes (including children’s sizes) were available.
At one point, a young woman calling herself “a community organizer from Atlanta” berated one of the salesmen after learning that one dollar of the proceeds of each shirt sale would go to the bereaved family of Michael Brown. She firmly believed it was a lowball amount.
“You got to talk to him,” the salesman told her, pointing at the other salesman.
Cars passing the QuikTrip honked incessantly as they drove slowly by.
Chants were equally incessant. “Hands up, don’t shoot” was the most popular mantra. The most dedicated chanters hoisted both arms in the air with their palms facing out and paced to and ‘fro.
Simple posters were also prevalent. “No Justice No Peace” read one. “Justice For Michael Brown” read another. “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” read several more. It was certainly helpful that someone had brought a bunch of poster board and markers.