FERGUSON, Mo. — The beleaguered town of Ferguson, Mo. saw continued protests throughout most of the day on Tuesday concerning the police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The demonstrations began peacefully but ultimately descended into more chaos.
Protesters began marching around 5:30 p.m. on West Florissant Avenue as they have the past few days. The events remained peaceful — even calm — nearly all night.
While police had attempted to set up an “approved assembly area,” many protesters elected to march up and down the street.
Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol visited the approved assembly area. He said he wanted to talk to community members about their thoughts. However, his presence only seemed to anger the protesters. Several referred to him as a “puppet.”
After Johnson’s exit, intense chants of “hands up, don’t shoot” began. Another chant was: “We young, we strong, we marching all night long.”
For much of the night, the protests were focused, something the past few nights distinctly lacked. Ministers and community leaders managed to keep the event substantially more organized than it has been in previous nights.
One police officer was overheard saying there was “nothing wrong with this (protest).”
For a long time, police made no advances towards the protesters.
In lieu of the wall of officers from Monday night, police lined the streets at around 11:20 p.m.
The ministers held a prayer at 11:30 p.m. They then attempted to disperse the crowd. Police tried to move the protesters to the approved assembly area, warning that staying on Florissant Avenue was tantamount to illegal assembly.
Then the situation became intense.
Some protesters grew agitated and eventually began throwing plastic bottles full of water and urine at officers. When the officers began charging protesters, community leaders formed a chain to create a buffer between the two factions.
Agitators in the amassed crowd then fled into a dedicated media area near a Public Storage facility to hide from officers. Next, police gave the scattered journalists covering the protest conflicting advice about where to go. Some said to go to the dedicated media area. Others said to head to the command center about a mile away in a Target parking lot.
Eventually, amid growing chaos, officers began gang-rushing certain individuals.
The cops also formed lines and pushed everyone to the corner of Florissant Ave. and Ferguson Ave.
In a later press conference, Johnson later said police had made 47 arrests — up from 31 during Monday night’s violent protests.
While the number of arrests was higher, Johnson said the overall peacefulness of the night was a step forward in the healing process of the community.
“I believe there was a turning point made, and I think that turning point was made by the clergy, the activists, the volunteers and the men and women of law enforcement who partnered together to make a difference,” Johnson said. “But also those citizens who took heed to what we talked about last night: Not allowing the criminals that mask themselves in a peaceful protest. They protested early and they went home early and allowed us a better look at those criminals and agitators that are roaming the street of Florissant for their own agenda.”
Johnson also noted that police stopped a vehicle because the driver was making threats to kill police officers. When officers pulled the car over, they confiscated two handguns and arrested the individuals in the vehicle. Another traffic stop yielded another handgun in a separate incident.
Community organizers said they now intend to move the protests to outside the Buzz Westfall Justice Center — in Clayton, Mo. — where embroiled prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s office is located and where a grand jury investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown convenes tomorrow.