Tuesday, November 25, 2014
FERGUSON DESTROYED ON ORDERS OF OBAMA
The tally of damage mounted Tuesday morning in the wake of the grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson.
At least 61 people were arrested, said St. Louis County Police Sgt. Brian Schellman. Charges ranged from burglary to trespassing to receiving stolen property.
FERGUSON - Shortly after 1:30 a.m., St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar spoke with reporters at a press conference after a night of looting and burned-out businesses after the grand jury announcement. He said he was grateful nobody was killed but disappointed at the amount of damage in the Ferguson area.
“What I've seen tonight is probably much worse than the worst night we ever had in August, and that's truly unfortunate,” he said.
He said that there was basically “nothing left” along West Florissant between Solway Avenue and Chambers Road. “Frankly, I'm heartbroken about that," he said.
Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson said, “We talked about peaceful protest, and that did not happen tonight. We definitely have done something here that's going to impact our community for a long time...that's not how we create change.”
Belmar said that officers did deploy tear gas near West Florissant and Chambers roads and a highway patrol lieutenant was hit by a glass bottle. He said as far as he knew police did not fire shots but there was plenty of gunfire in the area. He said he personally heard at least 150 shots.
He said he and Johnson drove around earlier and “got lit up,” and he was surprised they were not hit. Commanding officers were hesitant to leave officers at road blockades because of so much gunfire in those particular areas, he said.
They reported one shooting in the 9100 block of Halls Ferry Road and a report of one near the McDonald's on West Florissant Avenue.
They reported 29 arrests in and around Ferguson. They seized one handgun, he said. Two St. Louis County Police cars were torched, he said.
"Change is created through our voice, not the destruction of our community,” said Johnson.
Belmar said he didn't think the late-in-the-day timing of the announcement was a factor in the violence. He said he didn't get any advance notice of what the jury's decision would be and that he didn't expect it because it would be inappropriate under the grand jury system.
“I don't think we were underprepared,” he said.
He and Johnson spent many hours meeting with protesters and clergy in recent weeks, he said. “"We not only were engaged, we did everything we could to prevent this."
He said he expected more National Guard troops in the near future and changes in “operation procedures.”
Shortly after 2 a.m., at least five busloads of National Guard troops pulled up along South Florissant Road in the old town area of Ferguson.
Meanwhile, at least a dozen cars were on fire at an Auto By Credit dealership in Delwood at about 2 a.m. Tuesday. Just north of the dealership, a Conoco service station convenience store was destroyed by fire.
1:22 a.m. Several businesses were on fire and broken into Monday night in Ferguson after word of no charges against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Gunfire was heard throughout the area, but by 12:30 a.m. the situation had settled down enough for firefighters to respond.
Shortly after 1 a.m., Governor Jay Nixon issued a press release saying he ordered more Missouri National Guardsmen to Ferguson. "The Guard is providing security at the Ferguson Police Department, which will allow additional law enforcement officers to protect the public," the statement said.
A press conference by commanding police officers was scheduled for 1:30 a.m. at the command post in Ferguson.
As of 1:25 a.m., area hospitals reported a total of at least 13 injuries, including two with gunshot wounds.
At 1 a.m., police arrested a man suspected of looting a Phillips 66 convenience store at Chambers road and Atwater Avenue, just west of West Florissant Avenue. The store had been trashed.
Shortly after 1 a.m., as many as five buildings were burning along West Florissant Avenue just south of Chambers road, including the Fashions R Boutique, a Title Max and an Auto Zone.
Shortly after 12:30 a.m., the scene on West Florissant was safe enough for firefighters to begin putting out fires.
By 12:30 a.m., the crowd along West Florissant Avenue and Canfield Drive had dispersed and police were in the street. Firefights reached the fire at Sam's Meat Market about 20 minutes ago and began dousing it, but Red's Barbecue to the north at Canfield was burning unchecked.
At midnight, police resumed their advance north on West Florissant Avenue toward Canfield, behind the line of police armored vehicles. The officers wore full riot gear, many carrying shotguns and assault rifles.
St. Louis County Police were reporting the sound of heavy automatic gunfire near West Florissant and Canfield at about 11 p.m.
Among several buildings burning or burnt in and around Ferguson is the one that houses #HealStL, the community outreach program set up by St. Louis Alderman Antonio French.
The fire started in a cell phone business that is in the same building at 9171 West Florissant Avenue and eventually spread to the #HealSTL office.
Shortly after midnight, the Family Dollar Store on Halls Ferry Road just south of Interstate 270 caught fire. At an O'Reilly Auto Parts nearby that apparently had been looted, police had several young males in handcuffs.
By midnight, at least ten flights had been diverted from Lambert International Airport because of flight restrictions in the area. A temporary flight restriction was still in effect.
At about 12:20 a.m., a car was on fire in the parking lot
of a convenience store at Chambers and West Florissant roads. Several people were running in and out of the store, Energy Express, their arms full of goods. No police were immediately visible, and people were stopping their cars in the middle of the roadways and running around.
At about 12:30 a.m., smiling and laughing people ran in and out of Dellwood Market on Chambers Road as they took beer and candy. The business had been looted before.
Shortly at 11:30 p.m., a young man drove up to the police line in a parking lot on West Florissant Avenue and said he had been shot in the leg. He climbed out of his car, dazed and limping, and appeared to have a wound near one ankle. He at first refused medical treatment, saying he didn't want to leave his gray Ford Mustang. “It's all I have,” he said.
Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III said he was contacting elected officials and every contact he had in the governor's office to try to get the National Guard to respond as multiple businesses burned in the city.
“They're not here. They're not responding,” Knowles said. “We're trying to work every avenue. Right now, we're just hoping they'll respond.”
Several of the businesses on fire or broken into had been broken into before.
Shortly before midnight, two young men who watched the fires on West Florissant from a parking lot sought to justify the violence to a reporter. Steven Rodriguez, 22, of Ferguson, said, “This violence wasn't planned. This happened because people are sick and tired of being shot and bullied by the police.”
With him was Kenneth Covington, 24, of north St. Louis, who added, “There have been so many black men killed by police but police are never held accountable for it.”
There were at least six police armored vehicles in West Florissant Avenue, south of Canfield, in the lead of the police line. Several motorists have driven south on West Florissant toward the police vehicles, then suddenly spun U-turns and returned toward Canfield.
Ferguson Market was broken into and looted. The market is the store where Michael Brown was caught on video stealing cigars and shoving a store clerk a short time before Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot him Aug. 9. The store was looted and vandalized days afterwards.
Red's Barbecue, at the entrance to Canfield, was damaged by fire.
Along West Florissant just north of 270, in Greystone Plaza, about 20 men with handguns and AR-15 rifles stood around the perimeter of the parking lot, guarding the dozen or so stores.
They estimated that 100 cars had come by throughout the night, seemingly to check the place out, but turned away.
Mike Cross, the owner of St. Louis Ink at the plaza, said: “There's nothing in this strip mall open, so you're going to get scrutinized.”
The strip mall had been hit by vandals soon after the shooting in August.
Within an hour after the announcement was made, protesters had mostly moved away from the front of the Ferguson Police Department. Some were moving north on South Florissant Road. A St. Louis County Police car was on fire in the 400 block of South Florissant, a few blocks south of the police station. At around 10 p.m., police reported a second police car on fire on the same block.
Several fires were set in trash cans up and down the street.
St. Louis County Police reported at 10:14 p.m. that they were responding to a shooting in the 9100 block of New Halls Ferry Road, about four miles away from the police station.
At West Florissant Avenue and Interstate 270, north of the police station, people were looting at Toys R Us shortly after 11 p.m.
Some businesses along West Florissant near the site of the Mike Brown shooting were on fire. Gunshots rang out nearby.
Firefighters had to pull out from the scenes because of numerous shots fired in the area.
Shortly before 10:30 p.m., another fire broke out in a business building just south of the McDonald's on West Florissant Avenue, which is near Canfield Green and the scene of most of the protests in August. Firefighters battled the blaze as police in riot gear stood in the street.
Windows were smashed at the McDonald's and other businesses nearby.
A Little Caesar's pizzeria was also burned and looted. St. Louis Fish Chicken and Grill nearby was also on fire.
An antiques and collectibles store, Hidden Treasures, attached to Little Caesar's was also destroyed by fire. Neighborhood resident Bret Gray, 49, came to the scene and said the woman who owned the store hand-picked the items she sold and gave good deals to people. “To see it go up like this is very disappointing,” he said. “That's sad to see.”
Firefighters were at the scene, spraying down the Little Caesar's at 10:32 p.m.
People were breaking into Public Storage on West Florissant and smoke was coming out of Sam's Meat Market, Democratic committeewoman Patricia Bynes tweeted. St. Louis County Police said both businesses were set on fire. Fire was gutting the office building attached to the storage facility. The Beauty Town store on West Florissant had burned to the ground.
Several businesses north of the police station had front windows busted out.
The Walgreens at Hereford and North Florissant roads was on fire, though smoke was inside the building at 10:32 p.m. and a reporter did not see flames.
Witnesses reported an elderly man was run over after two people stole his car on the parking lot Faraci pizzeria on South Florissant.
Jaye Perry, 52, of Ferguson, said she had been talking to the man and he had told her, “Only in America do you see stuff like this.” The man then went back to his car to get a new oxygen tank, which he had been using to help him breathe.
But then two men approached him and took his car, she said. The man held on to his steering wheel and tried to hold on, but was run over as they sped away. He didn't appear to be seriously hurt, and continued to yell for his oxygen tank. An ambulance took him away.
In Ferguson, a police line in riot gear stood in the middle of South Florissant, appearing to guard the Ferguson Brewing Company. Behind them, the police car burned, along with a dumpster about a half a block away from the brewpub.
About 100 people stood nearby, but they remained peaceful, some jovial.
St. Louis County Police reported a peaceful protester was hit in the face with a piece of concrete.
FERGUSON • Outside the Ferguson Police Department, anger and disbelief rippled through the crowd after word came out that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for the killing of Michael Brown on Aug. 9.
"Oh, my God!" a man screamed.
Shortly after 9 p.m., police warned the hundreds of protesters in front of the police station to leave, that they were unlawfully assembled. Most had complied. "You need to stop throwing objects at the police and disperse immediately," an officer told them over a loudspeaker.
At about 9:15 p.m., police deployed tear gas on an unruly group of protesters who had gathered south of the police station.
Police had said that they deployed tear gas after they used smoke to attempt to disperse the crowd. Earlier they had said they did not use gas.
Earlier, a group bounced a St. Louis County Police car. Others threw chairs through the front windows of El Palenque Mexican restaurant. Cathy's Kitchen near the station had a window smashed. Some protesters broke up bricks in a parking lot nearby.
A police line in riot gear stood in the road. They warned the protesters to clear the street, some didn't, then police deployed the smoke. St. Louis County Police tweeted that the substance was smoke and not tear gas, as some in the streets reported. At 10:35 p.m., police confirmed what they used was tear gas.
Earlier, hundreds of people blocked South Florissant Road as they huddled around smartphones and strained to hear to audio of Robert McCulloch's announcement from a courtroom at the St. Louis County Justice Center in Clayton. Some gathered around cars playing the speech on news radio. After McCulloch said that there was no indictment, camera shutters clicked, people started yelling. Others screamed, "keep the peace!"
Lesley McSpadden, Brown's mother, stood on a pedestal in front of the police department and put her face in her hands as the crowd gathered around her. Some people began running north on South Florissant.
McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., Brown's parents, issued a statement through their attorney, Benjamin Crump:
"We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions.
"While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.
"Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.
"We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful. Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction.
"Let's not just make noise, let's make a difference."
At word of the announcement, dozens of young men and women piled into cars at Canfield Green apartment complex, where Brown was shot, and sped toward the police station.
Immediately after the announcement, the scene remained relatively peaceful as people continued to strain to listen to McCulloch's speech. But at one point, gunfire could be heard nearby. Police donned riot gear and stood in the street.
"What's done is done, now do what you gotta do," an angry woman yelled into a bullhorn.
“It's a brotherhood. In the cop community, they stand together,” said Patria Shepard, 35, a customer service representative who lives in Florissant, as she stood outside the police station. “When you are sworn in with that badge, no matter how much wrong you do, it's right.”
Briana Bobo, 25, Ballwin, stood outside the police station with tears in her eyes. “It seems that nothing that we do matters,” she said. “We can't win for losing.”
Our earlier story:
On South Florissant Road, across from the Ferguson Police Department, the crowd continues to grow, to several hundred, as the grand jury announcement grows near. Traffic was at a standstill in both directions.
Meanwhile, about 75 people who were blocking traffic at Airport Road and South Florissant Road, about three-fourths of a mile north of the police station, have moved to the sidewalks, at the urging of police. Traffic continues to move slowly in the area.
As people awaited the announcement, groups of people were huddled talking, many looking at their phones. A small group of St. Louis County Police officers stood in front of the police station, their hands in their pockets, and a small group of protesters screamed at them.
A couple miles north of the police station, about six men stood in front of Greystone Plaza, a small shopping center that had been looted soon after the Michael Brown shooting in August. The men wore masks and carried handguns and AR-15 rifles.
"I will definitely call police first," in case the store sees trouble, said St. Louis Ink Tattoo studio owner Mike Cross, 35. "We are not trigger happy by any means. We all have families, and homes and vehicles and bills. So this place cannot go anywhere."
At the police station, retired Philadelphia Police Capt. Ray Lewis joined demonstrators across the street to show the protest movement has wide support.
"I wanted to be here to support the people, and to give a different image of the protesters ... that a white, male former police captain is supportive of the residents here," Lewis said.
Lewis, who said he worked 24 years in Philadelphia, said there must be a trial in the shooting of Michael Brown.
"When you have a cop kill a black male like that, that has to go to an open trial," he said. "The transparency is absolutely necessary."
Ferguson resident Lamont Gardner last turned out to a protest here shortly after Michael Brown's death in August "to see how the crowd was reacting to the news."
On Monday, Gardner was watching the crowd gathered across from the police station for much the same reason.
"It seems like they're reacting to things real calmly ," said Gardner, who brought his three children with him. "They're excited at the same time."
He said Brown's shooting has opened people's eyes in the Ferguson community.
"It has made people either hate more or love more," he said.
At the shooting scene, in the 2900 block of Canfield Drive, about two dozen people were gathered, most of them members of the media. Few had gathered at West Florissant and Canfield Drive.
Earlier this afternoon, Mel Moffitt of Lost Voices, an organization with an office on West Florissant Avenue, said it will work to preserve peace no matter how the jury rules.
"No matter what people have said about us being violent, that's not what we are about," Moffitt said. "We are not going to allow a repeat of the violence and damage that happened to his area in August."
Residents headed home from work said they were hunkering down for the night.
"My main concern was to get home to my babies so I can hug and keep them safe," said Kenna Lewis, 31,who has lived in the Canfield Green apartments for a year. I know they are going to be terrified when everything starts happening."
She has four boys, ages 10 years to 17 months.
Terrence Lawrence, 26, was walking to his apartment in the Northwinds complex next to Canfield carrying several bags of groceries. His girlfriend, Destini Shaw, 20, was carrying Amore, Terrence's 15-month old daughter. They moved into the neighborhood after the shooting.
Lawrence and Shaw said they have no plans to join protesters, no matter the outcome.
“I have kids and work. I don't have the time for it,” said Lawrence.
Michael Brown's family released a statement this afternoon, asking for 4 1/2 minutes of silence to honor their son. The timing of the silence is intended to symbolize the 4 1/2 hours Brown's body remained on Canfield Drive after he was fatally shot.
“After the Grand Jury’s decision, we are asking for 4 1/2 minutes of silence to remember why we lift our voices. We are not here to be violent. We are here in memory of our son. We are here for protection of all children. We are here to support justice and equality for all people. We lift our voices to ensure black and brown men, women, and children can live in this country without being devalued because of the color of our skin.”
St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who was in the thick of the daily protests in August, left his office on West Florissant with a box of gloves and hats for protesters.
“This is a long struggle,” he told a reporter. "Reject fear and violence no matter how the grand jury rules.”
At a news conference at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Gov. Jay Nixon called for tolerance, mutual respect and restraint and that priorities must be to protect life, protect property and to protect free speech.
Earlier, Nixon participated in a conference call with about 25 to 30 clergy members. During the 20-minute call, clergy were given the opportunity to ask the governor questions surrounding his decision last week to issue a state of emergency. Clergy said Nixon expressed a concern for the loss of life.
But clergy also described the call as a last-minute effort to appease them ahead of the grand jury announcement.
The Rev. Cassandra Gould of Quinn Chapel AME Church in Jefferson City, who helped organize the conference, said the issues involving Ferguson “take more than a 20 minute conference call on the fly.”
The Rev. C. Jessel Strong, president of the St. Louis Metropolitan Coalition, said he felt the call was Nixon trying “to let us know he was on top of things.”
The Rev. Traci Blackmon, who described the call as “benign,” said she was confident those out on the streets would be on their best behavior tonight.
“I don't believe this going to be some kind of violent showdown,” she said.
Blackmon said she still believed Wilson should be indicted.
“What happens tonight says something about how this state values black life.”
Along West Florissant Avenue — well east of the Ferguson downtown and scene of most of the August protests — attendants boarded up service stations. Few had gathered at West Florissant and Canfield Drive.
Traffic flowed normally along West Florissant. As of 3:30 p.m., no crowd had formed at the memorial on Canfield Drive, where Michael Brown was shot fatally on Aug. 9.
Inside Ferguson Market & Liquor, 9101 West Florissant, business continued but owners said they will close at the first sign of trouble. The store is where a video monitor recorded Brown allegedly stealing cigars and shoving an attendant shortly before he was killed.
The store was looted one night after the security video was released.
One block north, insurance agent Dan McMullen took calls from clients inside his boarded-up office.
“I have my protection handy,” McMullen said, petting his giant schnauzer named Maverick. The dog growls at anyone who enters the room.
If needed, McMullen said, he also has his .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol.
A number of schools in the St. Louis area have canceled after-school and evening activities. Of the districts within the city of Ferguson, Jennings, Hazelwood, Ferguson-Florissant and Riverview Gardens have canceled school for rest of the week. The Normandy School District, where Brown graduated, also has canceled classes.
Jesse Bogan, Elisa Crouch, Nancy Cambria, Ken Leiser, Steve Giegerich, Lilly Fowler, Paul Hampel, Jennifer Mann, Tim O'Neil, Doug Moore and Nick Pistor, all of the Post-Dispatch, contributed to this article.
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