FERGUSON, Mo. — Hundreds of demonstrators returned to the streets of Ferguson on Tuesday night in response to the grand jury decision not to bring criminal charges against Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black male on Aug. 9.
However, Tuesday night’s protests did not remotely approach the mayhem of Monday night, largely because authorities were far more serious about quelling violence and destruction.
The police presence on the streets of Ferguson was extraordinary. Hundreds of National Guard troops dressed in full military gear and carrying rifles contributed to the show of force.
Police reported at least 44 arrests over the course of Tuesday evening (mostly on misdemeanor charges). They also found a Molotov cocktail. Protesters hurled rocks, tent poles and bottles at police. Tear gas use was sparse, though, and no serious injuries appear to have occurred.
The area in front of the police station in Ferguson — the scene of some secondary riots on Monday — was the scene of most of Tuesday’s action. A phalanx of battle-ready police officers stood two or three deep in front of National Guard soldiers festooned in full riot gear throughout the evening.
The apex of Tuesday night’s violence occurred as a small group of protesters trickled toward Ferguson City Hall, half a mile north of the police station on Church Street.
Protesters set an empty squad car ablaze directly in front of City Hall.
Police in numerous cars and armored vehicles then quickly swarmed Church Street as the vehicle smoldered.
Police discovered an unused Molotov cocktail outside City Hall. It was hidden in a bush.
The chaotic situation on Church Street grew slightly out of hand. Order was restored when police fired an abundance of tear gas canisters on the assembled crowd of protesters and journalists. The wafting gas covered the area in a thick haze — sending the crowd fleeing.
The protest moved back onto S. Florissant. Police armed with rifles and accompanied by armored, military-style vehicles eventually arrested a handful of protesters and convinced the crowd to disperse.
Next, the demonstration scene resumed at the police station. Chants started again. Bottles were thrown.
The number of protesters at the station was much lower all night. It included a large number of loitering journalists from around the world as well as a larger number of riot tourists.
Chants of “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and “No justice! No peace!” hung in the air all night long. Another popular refrain was “Whose streets? Our streets!”
The level of collective anger was high. At the time, it was obviously considerably lower than it had been the previous night.
Sporadic bouts of intensity occurred as the line of police would — for imperceptible reasons — surge forward, causing the gathered throng to disperse for just a moment.
The protest mostly petered out by around 1 a.m. Police managed to split the demonstrators who had congregated into two factions. One faction was pushed farther south on S. Florissant. The other was pushed up a hill on Tiffin Avenue, a small side street.
A few miles from the scene on and around S. Florissant, police had completely sealed off the strip of W. Florissant Avenue from Chambers Road to Woodstock Avenue that had become a lawless zone of looting and barbecued buildings on Monday night a mere 90 minutes after St. Louis County prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch announced Wilson’s fate. (RELATED: Total Police Failure Brings Absolute Mayhem To Ferguson After Grand Jury Announcement)
In addition to countless squad cars, armored SWAT cars and military vehicles, a number of empty buses roamed around Ferguson. Police radio activity indicated that the purpose of the buses was to ferry bunches of National Guard troops from place to place as needed.
At a police on checkpoint on Canfield Drive, the street on which Wilson shot Brown, police told The Daily Caller that no one could enter the several-block section of W. Florissant without an officer escort. (This claim turned out to be false, as drivers who showed a credible reason to enter the area were, in fact, occasionally able to enter from Chambers Road.)
Further down Canfield, the makeshift memorial for Brown was heaped nearly three feet tall with stuffed animals and a makeshift cross. A group of perhaps half a dozen young males dressed in all black appeared to be guarding the memorial. (RELATED: Reporter Assaulted, Man Killed Near Where Michael Brown Died)
Parking lots were mostly vacant. Virtually every retail business in Ferguson had boarded its storefront up by early Tuesday evening. A smattering of businesses — a small, lonely bar on Chambers Road, for example — remained open. The spray-painted word “knock” invited would-be patrons to enter the tavern.
On Monday night, authorities said, rioters set 21 fires on W. Florissant. A dozen retail buildings burned to the ground. Rioters looted numerous businesses along the street. Rioters also set 12 vehicles ablaze.
There were no fires Tuesday night.
“Generally it was a much better night,” St. Louis County police chief Jon Belmar said during a press conference that commenced at 1:30 a.m. local time.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon had ordered a total of 2,200 National Guard troops to the St. Louis area in the wake of the grand jury decision and Monday night’s intense violence.
“This community deserves to have peace,” Nixon said after the melee on Monday.