A quieter fury in Ferguson during second night of protests

Anger over grand jury’s decision remained, but many were ‘not here for violence. We’re here for peace’

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FERGUSON, Mo. — For the second straight night, tear gas polluted the air in Ferguson as police attempted to control protests over the Monday decision by a St. Louis County grand jury to not indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer who in August shot unarmed black teen Michael Brown.

On Tuesday evening, the stench of smoke lingered near West Florissant Avenue, where several businesses were torched during the violence that erupted Monday. Police and members of the National Guard blocked access to the street.

As was true the night before, most of the protesters gathered peacefully to make their opinions known. And there was confusion: One moment police would tell protesters they could protest peacefully on the sidewalk; the next, officers would tell protesters that gathering on the sidewalk was unlawful assembly.

Earlier Tuesday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said he increased the number of National Guard members deployed in the St. Louis region from 700 to 2,200. On Tuesday night, they were a visible presence.  

For much of Tuesday evening, protesters in the St. Louis suburb gathered peacefully near the Ferguson Police Department on South Florissant Road, but at about 9:45 p.m., a group of approximately 200 demonstrators began marching north along the thoroughfare and turned down a side street toward Ferguson City Hall.

Some of the protesters hurled pieces of landscaping bricks through City Hall's windows and at an unmanned police car parked near it and attempted to overturn the car and set it on fire.

As this was going on, a man in pajamas stood on the front stoop of an apartment building next to City Hall, yelling at the crowd to go away.

Officers, wearing helmets and holding batons and riot shields, appeared quickly, launching tear gas canisters to clear the area.

Some protesters criticized these actions by fellow demonstrators. Matt Jacobsen, 20, of Louisville, Kentucky, said that after one member of the crowd threw what appeared to be a Molotov cocktail at the police vehicle, others tackled him.

“We’re not here for violence. We’re here for peace,” said Jacobsen, who is white. “We’ve lost our unity.”

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said police recovered a Molotov cocktail near the car.

To some extent, peace prevailed. Although police made more than 40 arrests, the protests on Tuesday night did not come near the chaos of the previous night. By comparison, 61 arrests were made late Monday and into early Tuesday during a night of arson, looting, vandalism and sporadic gunfire that police countered with volleys of tear gas and smoke bombs.

Joe Darmin, 19, who is white, stopped in Ferguson on Tuesday night while driving from California to his home in Dayton, Ohio, for Thanksgiving. "I'm here in the flesh. I want to see it with my own eyes," he said. "Cops are supposed to be out here for the people. They're obviously not. So I feel like we need to be out here to watch them."

On Tuesday, Ferguson resident Allyshia Frazier, 21, said she thought some of the violence might have been necessary to bring attention to what she sees as the lack of justice for Brown. “If you don’t make no noise, nobody hears you,” she said. “We were peaceful, and they didn’t hear us. Now they do.”

Frazier, a certified nursing assistant, joined the protest after a 13-hour shift. She said that while she thought many of the businesses that were burned or looted would have insurance to help them rebuild, Brown's family will never recover their loss.

"I'm out here to support Mike Brown," she said. "I am out here to support my people, black people — but also white people who support Mike Brown."

She thinks the protests could continue for months, but another Ferguson resident, Tempestt Williams, 25, who is black, said the effort might mean little. "I don't think anything will come," she said. "I just see more the fighting with [police]. I just see more destruction."

Protests have been a daily routine since Brown was killed on Aug 9. In the weeks after his death, protests sometimes turned violent as businesses were looted and a QuikTrip convenience store was burned. Police, rolling in armored vehicles, used tear gas, flash-bang grenades and rubber bullets on demonstrators, bringing attention to the militarization of local law enforcement.

On Tuesday night Ashley Sullivan, 20, who is black, said she was demonstrating because she was distraught and angry over Brown's killing and the decision not to indict Wilson.

Coughing, with her eyes watering from tear gas, she said she went to Ferguson from Belleville, Illinois, which is about a 30 minute drive from Ferguson and part of the St. Louis metropolitan area, to join the protest. 

“It’s not necessarily about this boy getting shot," she said. "You got to worry about your brothers, fathers and boyfriends.”

Her friend Delisa Allen, 21, who is also black, chimed in, saying, “I’m not trying to make this a race issue, but when my country makes my race an issue, it becomes one.”

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