FERGUSON, Mo. — Incredibly intense violence bubbled up on Monday night in Ferguson, Mo. after St. Louis County prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch announced that white police officer Darren Wilson will face no criminal charges for shooting and killing 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9.
Despite having about three full months of relative peace in Ferguson to plan for the possibility of violent demonstrations, police had completely lost control of Ferguson about 90 minutes after the grand jury announcement.
By 10:30 p.m., the strip of W. Ferguson Avenue from Chambers Road to Woodstock Avenue that had been the epicenter of the Aug. 9 protests had become a crazy, no-go zone for any peaceful protesters and — it certainly seemed — for police.
Police armed with rifles had set up a checkpoint at the south end of the anarchy-like conditions on W. Florissant. About two dozen police cars sat a few blocks north of the checkpoint in the small parking lot of Pawn Center.
For several blocks north beyond the pawn shop, though, there appeared to be no police presence whatsoever.
“There are hundreds of us and thousands of them,” an officer brandishing a rifle explained to The Daily Caller.
At least temporarily, the police failure appeared almost total.
Protesters on W. Florissant snarled traffic for blocks.
A number of gun shots rang through the air all along the street.
Young men roaming West Florissant Avenue broke plate glass windows and looted stores. One such store was Ferguson Market & Liquor, which had been boarded up. TheDC witnessed dozens of people streaming in and out of the store, carrying out all manner of food and beverages. The McDonalds next door also appeared to be looted.
About a mile away, at the corner of South Florissant Road and Hereford Avenue, virtually the same scene of looting played out at a CVS pharmacy.
Cars including, reportedly, police cars, were set on fire on W. Florissant.
Looters set Sam’s Meat Market on W. Florissant on fire. A nearby storage facility was also set ablaze.
At the police checkpoint just south of the carnage, TheDC witnessed fire trucks rolling onto the scene. A National Guard truck full of guardsmen appeared to tag along.
Before the mayhem on W. Florissant had begun, Act I of Monday night’s protest occurred outside the Ferguson police station on South Florissant Road a few hours before McCulloch made the announcement of the grand jury’s decision.
This first protest was far more sedate, involving a few hundred people (a few in their prized Guy Fawkes masks), a smattering of printed signs, and a bit of chanting. Police stood in their regular uniforms outside the station.
At approximately 8:25 p.m. local time, as McCullough spoke, and as it became clear to the assembled throng that Wilson would not face charges, a slow wave of anger swept over the crowd. The sound of a few breaking bottles pierced the air.
There was much yelling. “We gonna tear this shit up,” someone said. “No justice no peace” was a common refrain.
Next, a phalanx of police officers standing in front of the police station appeared in full riot gear. Protesters severely tested them with invective. They tried but failed to turn over a police car.
The protest slowly oozed a few blocks south. Some protesters shattered the glass in front of a Mexican restaurant and a second restaurant. The protesters loudly chanted “Fuck tha police” over and over again as they faced off with a large number of police cars and an armored vehicle that had by then appeared.
After several warnings, police lobbed a large number of tear gas canisters toward the protesters. The canisters flew toward and over the crowd like Roman candles on the Fourth of July, distributing a thorough haze of noxious gas.
The protesters quickly dispersed — puking, spitting and crying as they went.
“Don’t give ’em what they want,” a woman at the South Florissant Road protest in front of the police station had urged the crowd, well before the tear gas started. “They want us to act like a bunch of animals.”
An endless stream of police cars, armored cars and what appeared to be National Guard units could be seen rushing to the scene of the havoc and confusion on W. Florissant as the evening descended further into complete chaos.
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