Police Use Tear Gas, Smoke Bombs In Another Night Of Unrest In Ferguson

A protester takes shelter from smoke billowing around him Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Freguson, Mo. Protests in the St. Louis suburb rocked by racial unrest since a white police officer shot an unarmed black teenage... A protester takes shelter from smoke billowing around him Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Freguson, Mo. Protests in the St. Louis suburb rocked by racial unrest since a white police officer shot an unarmed black teenager to death turned violent Wednesday night, with some people lobbing Molotov cocktails and other objects at police who responded with smoke bombs and tear gas to disperse the crowd. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Carson) MORE LESS
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FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Police used tear gas and smoke bombs to repel crowds who threw Molotov cocktails during another violent night on the streets of a St. Louis suburb in the wake of the shooting of the unarmed 18-year old Michael Brown.

Hours earlier, the police chief had said race relations were the top priority in the town, where a white police officer fatally shot the black teen. Authorities have vowed to reach across the racial, economic and generational divide in a community in search of answers.

In the streets of Ferguson, though, the polite dialogue heard at community forums and news conferences is nowhere to be found.

Police advance through smoke.

Instead, officers from multiple departments in riot gear and in military equipment have clashed nightly with protesters, who chant, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Wednesday saw more tense confrontations and further volleys of tear gas from police — this time paired with smoke bombs in response to flaming projectiles and other objects lobbed from the crowd. Protesters faced heavily armed police who at times trained weapons on them from armored trucks.

Two reporters said they were detained by police for not clearing out quickly enough from a McDonald’s where they were working, near the protests but away from the more volatile areas. The two, who work for The Washington Post and The Huffington Post, were released without any charges. Both say they were assaulted but not seriously hurt.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that about 10 people had been arrested, including St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who has been chronicling the protests on social media. Police had said earlier they would not have arrest information until early Thursday.

Residents in Ferguson have complained about what they called a heavy-handed police presence that began with the use of dogs for crowd control soon after Brown’s shooting — a tactic that for some invoked the specter of civil rights protests a half-century ago. The county police force took over leading both the investigation of Brown’s shooting and the subsequent attempts to keep the peace at the smaller city’s request.

Police officers work their way north on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo., clearing the road with the use of tear gas and smoke bombs.

County Police Chief Jon Belmar, though, said his officers have responded with “an incredible amount of restraint,” as they’ve been the targets of rocks, bottles and gunshots, with two dozen patrol vehicles being destroyed.

“It’s pretty amazing how impressed I am and inspired by these officers,” he said. “This is a very difficult circumstance.”

Police had also asked earlier that people assemble in “an organized and respectful” manner and disperse before evening.

The city and county are also under criticism for refusing to release the name of the officer involved in Brown’s shooting, citing threats against that officer and others.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson called improving race relations “the top priority right now” but also said he won’t be pressured into publicly identifying the officer — despite, he said, mounting demands from clergy, computer hackers and protesters.

“We have the right to know, and the family has the right to know who murdered their son,” said Sahari Gutierrez, a 27-year-old Ferguson legal assistant.

Jackson said he also welcomes Justice Department training on racial relations in the suburb, where two-thirds of the 21,000 residents are black while all but three of the police force’s 53 officers are white.

A protester kicks a smoke grenade that had been deployed by police back in the direction of police.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon cited the “worsening situation” in Ferguson in saying he would be in the area Thursday. He asked community members to be patient and calm while the investigation proceeds and urged law enforcement agencies to “keep the peace and respect the rights of residents and the press.”

Jackson said the investigation remains weeks away from completion.

Police have said Brown was shot after an officer encountered him and another man on the street. They say one of the men pushed the officer into his squad car, then physically assaulted him in the vehicle and struggled with the officer over the officer’s weapon. At least one shot was fired inside the car.

The struggle then spilled onto the street, where Brown was shot multiple times. In their initial news conference about the shooting, police didn’t specify whether Brown was the person who scuffled with the officer in the car and have refused to clarify their account.

Jackson said Wednesday that the officer involved sustained swelling facial injuries.

People protest as tear gas canisters detonate around them.

Dorian Johnson, who says he was with Brown when the shooting happened, has told a much different story. He has told media outlets that the officer ordered them out of the street, then tried to open his door so close to the men that it “ricocheted” back, apparently upsetting the officer.

Johnson says the officer grabbed his friend’s neck, then tried to pull him into the car before brandishing his weapon and firing. He says Brown started to run and the officer pursued him, firing multiple times. Johnson and another witness both say Brown was on the street with his hands raised when the officer fired at him repeatedly.

Among the protesters critical of the police response has been state Sen. Maria Chapelle-Nadal, a Democrat from nearby University City

“I just want to know if I’m going to be gassed again, like I was on Monday night?” she asked Jackson at a press conference. “And I was peaceful. And I’m your state senator.”

“I hope not,” he replied.

___

Associated Press reporters Jim Salter and Jim Suhr contributed to this story. Suhr reported from St. Louis.

___

Follow Alan Scher Zagier on Twitter at http://twitter.com/azagier

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

All images via The Associated Press

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Notable Replies

  1. Jay Nixon needs to come in on this now. He looks like the aloof Pete Wilson during the LA riots at the moment. There are lots of things that can be done to de-escalate the situation.

  2. Avatar for anniew anniew says:

    Funny, when I was watching this live last night the protesters were not the ones that escalated things.

  3. When all your tools are hammers, all your problems look like nails.

  4. “…in the wake of the shooting of the unarmed 18-year old…”

    This is what Second Amendment remedies look like. Right, conservatives?

  5. Another example of using American militarized policing to crack down on dissent. We seen this at the Occupy protests and at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle. An interesting, informative article titled: “11 Eye-Opening Facts About America’s Militarized Police Forces” has this:

    at least $34 billion in DHS grants have gone to police agencies to buy military-style equipment. This money has gone to purchase drones, tactical vests, bomb-disarming robots, tanks and more.
    According to the ACLU, Arpaio’s Maricopa County department has acquired a machine gun so powerful it could tear through buildings on multiple city blocks. In addition, he has 120 assault rifles, five armored vehicles and ten helicopters. Other law enforcement agencies in Arizona have obtained equipment like bomb suits and night-vision goggles.
    The trend towards police militarization has given military contractors another lucrative market where they can shop their products. Companies like Lockheed Martin and Blackhawk Industries are making big bucks by selling their equipment to agencies flush with Department of Homeland Security grants.

    To “protect and serve” is so yesterday. Intimidate and terrorize is the new motto.

    There’s more:

    In 2007, Clayton County, Georgia — whose sheriff once complained that the drug war was being fought like Vietnam, and should instead be fought more like the D-Day invasion at Normandy — got its own tank through the Pentagon’s transfer program. Nearby Cobb County got its tank in 2008. In Richland County, South Carolina, Sheriff Leon Lott procured an M113A1 armored personnel carrier in 2008. The vehicle moves on tank-like tracks, and features a belt-fed, turreted machine gun that fires .50-caliber rounds, a type of ammunition so powerful that even the military has restrictions on how it’s used on the battlefield. Lott named his vehicle “The Peacemaker.”

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