TIME Crime

Ferguson Wrestles With What to Do Next

Michael Brown Sr, yells out as his son's  casket is lowered into the ground at St. Peter's Cemetery in St. Louis
Michael Brown Sr., center, yells out as his son's casket is lowered into the ground at St. Peter's Cemetery in St. Louis on Aug. 25, 2014 Richard Perry—Pool/Reuters

The town is trying to figure out how to turn a tragic moment into a lasting movement

The funeral was choreographed to the smallest detail, from the celebrities sprinkled through the church to the Cardinals cap laid atop the black-and-gold casket. A massive crowd filed past the television cameras and into the jam-packed sanctuary or the overflow rooms live-streaming the service. The ceremony was billed as a celebration of Brown’s life, which ended Aug. 9 in a hail of bullets fired by a white policeman, and the crowd heard upbeat gospel music, stirring sermons and a eulogy from the Rev. Al Sharpton. But it was also an opportunity to send a message to his mourners. “We are required,” Sharpton told them in his peroration, “to leave here today and change things.”

For the residents of Ferguson, Mo., Brown’s funeral on Monday closed one chapter and opened a new period of uncertainty. The worst of the violence appears over, and the protests are beginning to subside. Soon the television cameras will get packed up, leaving a town that has become the latest shorthand for America’s racial divide to figure out how to translate the energy, intensity and anger of the past two weeks into concrete change.

The problem is that nobody is quite sure how to do it — or what that change would even look like. The shooting of an unarmed, 18-year-old black man at the hands of a white Ferguson policeman opened all sorts of wounds that have festered for generations. Of the thousands who have tromped up and down West Florissant Avenue since Brown’s death, there are nearly as many diagnoses about what Ferguson needs now.

To some, the answer is erasing the pattern of improper police behavior that has plagued this St. Louis suburb. To others, it is addressing income inequality or struggling schools. Still more cite the need to regain lost jobs, or repair the ruptured trust between the community and the people sworn to protect it. Then there is the glaring lack of African-American political representation: Ferguson is a city that is two-thirds black, run by a white mayor and nearly all-white city council.

“This is Jim Crow country,” says Garrett Duncan, a professor of education and African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis. “You still have a predominantly white and affluent population voting for who runs North County,” the collection of townships like Ferguson north of St. Louis.

Ferguson’s protesters are united on one point: they want justice, in the form of an indictment for Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Brown at least six times just after noon on Aug. 9. (A new audio recording, provided to CNN by an unidentified resident, who alleges he inadvertently captured the incident on tape, purports to show that Brown was killed in two distinct bursts of gunfire separated by a pause. CNN says it cannot authenticate the tape.) But an indictment will be slow, if it comes at all. Robert McCulloch, the lead prosecuting attorney in the case, has estimated he won’t finish presenting evidence to a grand jury until about mid-October. Issues can flare and fade in a blink. If the courtroom lag diverts attention from the systemic problems that led to Brown’s shooting, the community could lose the momentum it has gathered.

To Larry Jones, bishop of the Greater Grace Church in Ferguson, the solution is to reach out to a generation of young, black men who don’t believe the system is geared to represent them. Part of that, he says, is to form mentorship programs that help blacks prepare to enter the workforce and to cope with episodes of police targeting. But another part is improving civic participation. “We have forgotten the power we’ve been given to go to the polls and cast our vote,” says Jones. “It’s those local elections that really affect our lives. We do have a voice, and we need to use it.”

In 2013 municipal elections, just 6% of African Americans turned out to vote. The figures are so low, in part, because the elections were held in the spring of an off-year. But that doesn’t explain the racial gap: whites, who comprise just one-third of the city’s population, were three times more likely to vote. A number of groups are trying to improve African-American participation. The organization HealSTL, launched in the wake of the shooting, leased office space in town as part of its bid to “turn a moment into a movement.” Other organizations have also erected voter-registration booths alongside the protests.

Another challenge will be fixing the issues with local police, which range from widespread reports of bias to the heavy-handed crackdown on the protests. Chris Koster, Missouri’s attorney general, has announced workshops this autumn designed to diversify the state’s urban police forces. (Ferguson, whose force is 94% white, is hardly the only township with an unrepresentative police department.) Democratic Congressmen Emanuel Cleaver and William Lacy Clay, both of Missouri, met last week with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to air their concerns about the “militarization” of area police, who responded to the protests with tear gas, rubber bullets and armored tanks. “If there is any good that can come out of the tragedy in Ferguson,” they wrote in a statement on the meeting, “our hope is that this effort will spur a national discussion about how to achieve a fundamental shift in local law enforcement, away from military-style responses, and towards a more community-based policy.”

Other residents hope that the exhale following the funeral will allow them to rebuild the city’s reputation. Ferguson has become a byword for racial strife and civic unrest, but it is more complex than a single stretch of heavily photographed road. Other sections of town bear the ubiquitous signs of urban reinvention: a downtown strip dotted with a wine bar and refurbished loft apartments, a farmers’ market, community gardens. In 2010, a 30-person delegation even traveled to Kansas City, Mo., to compete for an All-America City Award, for which the city was a finalist.

“For the most part, we get along,” says Brian Fletcher, a former Ferguson mayor who is one of the founders of a group called I Love Ferguson. The committee has passed out more than 8,000 signs bearing that credo, which dot leafy yards in the more affluent neighborhoods and line some of the city’s streets. It hopes to raise money to repay the businesses that suffered in the looting, and maybe even enough to incentivize others to move in. “The image that we’ve received is a city in chaos. We don’t ignore the fact that there’s racial tension and segregation,” says Fletcher, who is white. “We have chosen to stay here. We’re not leaving. It is an amazing community.”

The community has done some amazing things since Brown’s death, from the volunteer peacekeepers who soothed tensions between protesters and police to the residents who showed up each day with crates of bottled water and trays of food, paid for out of their own pockets. Now the challenge, as Sharpton told the mourners at the funeral, is to “turn the chants into change.” But marching orders are much more easily given from the pulpit than carried out on the street. It is up to Ferguson to figure out whether it will be known for a shooting or the healing that followed. “How we responded to the tragedy,” says Fletcher, “will become the real legacy.”

TIME #Asktime

#AskTIME Q & A: Alex Altman

Welcome to TIME’s weekly Q&A series #AskTIME. This week, we’re chatting with Alex Altman, who co-authored this week’s cover story on Ferguson and spent the week there reporting on the ground.

We will start posting questions and responses at 1 p.m. EST and stay online for about 30 minutes. We have been gathering reader questions all week on Whisper, Twitter and Facebook but will also take questions in the comments below or on Twitter with the hashtag #askTIME.

If you’d like to follow along with #AskTIME going forward, sign up here.

Outsider asks: What do you think the chances are of the officer involved being charged in this case, and the police chief coming under investigation for lack of management (or a stated policy) regarding minorities in his city – given the other death that occurred by Police 4 miles away from where Brown was shot? Have you heard of any legal action coming down?

I don’t want to speculate about whether the officer will be charged. The county prosecutor has begun presenting evidence to a grand jury, but that process will take months. Gov. Jay Nixon has promised a “vigorous prosecution,” which is an unusual statement that gives you a sense of the political pressure at play. DOJ has opened a parallel investigation into federal (criminal) civil rights violations. They are probing allegations that the Ferguson police force has a pattern of racial profiling, borne out in both residents’ anecdotes and statistics collected by the state.

Whisper: ‘What are the protesters hoping to accomplish by destroying the things around them. It takes all respect away from their cause.’

It’s important to distinguish between the small faction of people who are there to fight cops or break stuff, and the vast majority, which is there to peacefully call attention to a deeply felt grievance. The protesters are not “destroying things.” That’s being done by other folks, who are there for reasons that have little to do with the death of Michael Brown. A week ago, when there was significant looting, a lot of protesters put themselves at personal risk by standing guard at storefronts to stop it. There are more volunteers spending hours a day actively policing the crowd than there are folks intent on doing damage. People are doing some pretty heroic stuff in an attempt to keep the peace.

Whisper: how do we shift the focus from a race issue to an issue where we see our police are out of control?

I think this question underscores why the story has gotten such traction. So much is screwed-up about what’s happened in Ferguson that it touches different nerves for different people. I agree that the “militarization” of police is a big issue. But so are the racial divisions that led to this point, and which have been deepened by the shooting. Focus on whatever aspect of the story you want, but there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed.

deconstructiva asks: Alex, we know that journalists normally try to cover the story instead of being the story, but the Ferguson police’s arrest of journalists have changed that, especially the initial two arrests in the McDonald’s. Has that made your coverage there any harder, or not really? Why did the police raid that McDonald’s in the first place? No doubt many view their food as a health hazard, but that’s no excuse to storm the place to clear it out and arrest journalists. Did anyone arrest or otherwise discipline those officers who made the arrests? I wonder how events and coverage would’ve played out if the police had left the media alone, but then again, given their brutality against local residents, their behavior would’ve been exposed anyway. And if the large media presence wasn’t there, how much worse would events be? Sunil Dutta’s recent op-ed defending fellow police shows a potentially dangerous mindset that obviously is not strictly his alone.

I have thought about this a lot. The arrest of journalists is obviously unfortunate, and for a bunch of reasons. One is it created a storyline which diverts attention from the bigger issues at the core of the case: the death of a 18-year-old kid; the systemic issues that led to it; the question of what transpired in the Brown-Wilson encounter; the protests that have ensued; the challenge of preventing a repeat occurrence. As you say, when at all possible, reporters should try to cover the story without inserting themselves into it. It’s not always possible.

There’s no question that the media have affected the trajectory of events. I suspect the press horde has probably made police more cautious about how they deploy force, since they know their actions are liable to be splashed across the national news. Nearly everyone I met was happy to talk to me—which is a rarity—because they hope the reporting calls attention to problems in the community. I also think the media presence eggs on some agitators who want to mug for the cameras.

Some of this stuff is unavoidable. And the majority of media in Ferguson are doing a very good job covering an important story under difficult circumstances. But the swarm has grown to unwieldy proportions and there are some folks who seem to be courting controversy rather than trying to avoid it. The last day or so that I was in Ferguson (I was there for a week before leaving yesterday morning), the press pack began outnumbering protesters at time. Reporting started to feel like rubbernecking. We have to be conscious of when our presence becomes a hindrance. (And yes, I recognize the hypocrisy in saying the press shouldn’t be the story, then giving a windy first-person response.)

yogi1 asks: Alex what are the chances a lame duck Congress passes anything substantial on immigration reform after the midterms?

Pretty much zero. House Republicans have blocked efforts to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill for more than a year, despite strong public support and pressure from business lobbies and evangelicals. The right’s resistance will only intensify if President Obama issues executive orders on immigration policy this fall, as he has suggested. I have written about what moves he may be considering, such as expanding DACA to grant relief from deportation for potentially millions.

Whisper: ‘has the officer responsible been arrested, detained, placed on probation or faced any repercussions? if not, why?

The officer who shot Brown is on paid administrative leave. He’s left the area, and is in an undisclosed location because of threats to his safety. The Ferguson police hasn’t addressed your question specifically, and the St. Louis County police tells me they will not release the investigative component of the incident report, which deals with what happened. It’s possible that Wilson will face criminal charges. But we won’t know for months; the prosecuting attorney is hoping to finish presenting evidence by mid-October.

DonQuixotic asks: Alex, given your past coverage on the House vote to try and help Marijuana businesses gain access to financial systems, what do you think the likelihood of legalization is? Is it only a matter of time? How much support is the move seeing on the Hill?

There has been very little progress on legalization at a federal level. There’s not even much progress on giving legitimate, tax-paying businesses in states that have legalized pot access to banks, which is an urgent and obvious problem. Lawmakers want to see how the experiments unfolding in Colorado and Washington play out. But I think there’s no question the legalization movement is gaining momentum at the state level. Oregon and Alaska may follow this year. California is the big one, and industry folks believe it will pass a legalization measure in 2016.

deconstructiva asks: Alex, in a change of pace from Ferguson coverage, as you travel all over the country to cover politics, what do you think is the biggest difference in political coverage all over the US – elected officials at highest levels (President, Congress, governors, state legislators) vs. everyday people in your interviews, or different areas of the country, like East Coast vs. Midwest vs. South, or even DC / Beltway vs. outside DC (everywhere else)? Do DC politicians and the media really have its own collective mindset about politics apart from the rest of country, thus the “Beltway media” term mentioned a lot, or is this more of an urban myth and Beltway coverage really isn’t that much different as say, reporting from Ohio or California?

(My best guess – if “Beltway media” reporting is unique among national reporting, I suspect it comes from DC’s sole existence as our nation’s capital and thus politics is a daily livelihood for nearly everyone there …so politics might be seen as a game to be played (and manipulated) instead of a daily job of tackling everyday issues and keeping things running, though of course, Congress is failing to do even this bare minimum, but I digress.)

If I understand your question, the biggest difference is the stakes, both political and monetary. Read coverage in, say, mid-sized metro newspapers around the U.S., and you will see the same focus on incremental inside-baseball news, fleeting “scoops,” partisan bickering. “Beltway” reporting heightens these tendencies, because the characters are bigger, there’s more competition, and there’s an entire industry that wants this kind of coverage and is willing to underwrite it. Believe me when I tell you that a lot of reporters are even more frustrated with some of the industry trends than you seem to be.

@AprilHollowayJD asks: Did you hear any police officers disagree with the actions of the other police or is it mob/protect your own mentality?

There’s definitely a protect-your-own mentality. However, it’s just as dangerous to generalize about the behavior of police in Ferguson as it is to generalize about the protesters. Is some of the criticism of police behavior valid? Absolutely. But I also saw and spoke to a lot of police officers who were respectful of the protesters’ right to assemble, who were doing their best to lower the temperature, and who are caught in a very difficult situation not of their own making.

TIME Crime

There’s Very Little in the Michael Brown Shooting Incident Report

Ferguson reacts to shooting of Michael Brown
Theo Murphy (left) of Florissant and his brother Jordan Marshall light candles, at a memorial on Canfield Drive where unarmed teen Michael Brown was fatally shot, Aug. 21, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo. Christian Gooden—St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Polaris

Police waited 10 days to approve It

Updated 1:45 p.m. ET

Nearly two weeks after Michael Brown’s death, a police report on the shooting has finally been made public. But the glaring lack of detail is likely to increase widespread criticism that the law-enforcement community is closing ranks around Darren Wilson, the officer who fatally shot Brown on Aug. 9.

The incident report, filed by the St. Louis County police department, contains no new information on the encounter between Brown and Wilson. There are no written details about the event. As a result, the officer’s account of what transpired when the two men met just after noon on Aug. 9 remains a mystery.

And it will be for some time, according to Brian Schellman, a spokesman for the St. Louis County police department. Schellman told TIME that the department does not intend to release the “investigative” component of the incident report, the part that details Wilson’s version of events.

Schellman said that under the Missouri State “Sunshine” Law, the department was not required to release the information during a pending investigation. As a result, Wilson’s account of what happens will remain confidential unless it is presented by a prosecutor, Schellman said.

“We will not release it,” said Schellman, who noted that this is the county’s normal procedure. “This isn’t any different than a typical larceny from a local convenience store.”

Wilson never filed a report on the incident, according to the office of the St. Louis County prosecutor. The case was quickly turned over to the county at the request of local police. According to the document, the St. Louis County police entered the incident report on Aug. 19, 10 days after the shooting. It was approved for release the following morning.

(Read More: TIME’s cover story Inside the Tragedy of Ferguson)

The bare facts of the incident report were made public after the ACLU of Missouri filed a lawsuit demanding the public documents, as pursuant to Missouri’s Sunshine Law. Why it took so long for the department to comply, considering the lack of information contained in the documented, is unclear. The ACLU could not immediately be reached for comment.

The report classifies the potential offense as a “homicide.” Schellman said that is the standard classification for an investigation into an incident that leaves someone dead.

Read the full report below.

This story has been updated to reflect new information.

CARE Incident Report

TIME Crime

Ferguson Protests Stay Peaceful for the First Night in Nearly a Week

Demonstrators protest the killing of teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 20, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo.
Demonstrators protest the killing of teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 20, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo. Scott Olson—Getty Images

Peace reigns after nightfall in Ferguson for the first time in nearly a week

Justice is a long way off. But on Wednesday night in Ferguson, Mo., there was finally a stretch of peace.

For the first evening in nearly a week, protests here went off unmarred by any major skirmishes between police and protesters. On a rainy night, a smaller-than-usual group of protesters still paced the wet streets, doing laps along West Florissant Avenue as their voices grew hoarse from chanting slogans. Small groups huddled along the battered boulevard, mostly unbothered by a police presence reduced from previous nights.

It was a rare respite. For nearly a fortnight, days in Ferguson have been boisterous but peaceful. But when the sun goes down, the dynamic has changed as a cadre of confrontational youth stir up trouble under the cover of night.

Wednesday was different. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder touched down in Ferguson Wednesday morning, meeting with community leaders, local residents, students and patrons at a local diner. The trip was a bid to turn down the thermostat on an overheated city that has been aflame since Aug. 9, when Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, was shot to death by a white police officer.

The visit from Holder, who is not just the nation’s top cop but also a black man who has spoken frankly about race, seemed to calm a mostly black community that has complained vehemently about its treatment at the hands of a nearly all-white police force. Holder also arrived on the day that a grand jury began to hear evidence in Brown’s shooting death. The attorney general’s trip was a token of solidarity, as Holder offered assurances that the federal government—which is conducting its own civil rights probe into the case—will conduct a thorough investigation.

The beleaguered city also got help from the weather. Wednesday was sweltering, with a soggy humidity that kept daytime street protests to a minimum; at mid-afternoon, West Florissant almost seemed back to normal. As darkness descended, lightning forked through the sky and thunder rumbled, announcing a rainstorm that kept troublemakers off the streets.

However, there were still some skirmishes. At one point, two white people—a woman and a man—arrived brandishing signs advertising support for Darren Wilson, the 28-year-old six-year veteran of the Ferguson Police Department who shot Brown on Aug. 9. They slid into the crowd, sparking a brief outrage. Water bottles went flying. But the police did not overreact, instead spiriting the agitators away from the crowd and off the scene. Throughout the evening, angry protesters vented at police, screaming about their treatment, including a rule that prohibits people from gathering in place, forcing the crowd to stay mobile by looping up and down the street.

And so they did. “We’re young! We’re strong! We’re marching all night long!” they chanted. Peace hasn’t come yet to this troubled St. Louis suburb; it remains a tinderbox susceptible to a spark. But for the first time in a long time on Wednesday, that spark never came.

TIME Crime

What We Know and Don’t Know About the Michael Brown Shooting in Ferguson

Ferguson Cutraro
A protestor demonstrates in Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 19, 2014. Andrew Cutraro—REDUX for TIME

There's a lot we know about the death of Michael Brown and its aftermath, but many questions remain unanswered

It’s been 11 days since Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot dead by Darren Wilson, a white policeman in Ferguson, Mo. Since then, the violent protests that followed have drawn national attention and flummoxed authorities and elected officials looking to lower the temperature. But we’re still missing a lot of key facts about the incident and the ongoing investigations. Despite a calmer night on Tuesday, no one knows when the nightly clashes will end.

Here’s a rundown of what we know—and what we don’t—about the turmoil playing out in this St. Louis suburb.

How did Wilson encounter Brown?

Shortly before noon on Aug. 9, Brown walked into Ferguson Market and Liquor, a convenience store on West Florissant Avenue. He was with a friend, 22-year-old Dorian Johnson. At approximately 11:51, according to a police report, an unidentified officer received a call that a robbery was in progress at the store. But the suspect, who a Brown family lawyer has acknowledged “appears to be” Brown from surveillance footage, was gone when the officer arrived.

Minutes later, Brown and Johnson turned onto Canfield Drive, where they came upon a second officer, Wilson, at 12:01 p.m. At that point, Wilson didn’t know Brown was suspected of committing the robbery minutes earlier, according to Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson. He just saw a pair of people blocking traffic. Ferguson police have provided conflicting reports on whether Wilson received information that Brown was a robbery suspect between the moment that the officer encountered Brown and the fatal shooting.

So what led to the shooting?

It’s unclear and witness accounts differ. What we know is that within about three minutes, Brown was dead of multiple gunshot wounds to the head and torso. Pictures show him sprawled face down in the middle of the street, with a trail of what appears to be blood seeping from his body.

Johnson has said that Wilson ordered them onto the sidewalk and when they didn’t move right away, the office pulled up to Brown. A struggle ensued, and in Johnson’s version of events, Brown was shot from inside the car before they both took off running with Wilson in pursuit. Johnson has said Wilson fired multiple times despite Brown having his hands up.

Other witnesses have provided conflicting accounts, alternately alleging that Brown was shot in the back or while on his knees in a posture of surrender. And Wilson’s version of events is even harder to ascertain, because he’s in hiding: He fled his St. Louis-area neighborhood a few days after shooting and hasn’t spoken publicly. Police have said Brown reached for Wilson’s gun and the shooting occurred during that struggle. It’s unclear why Brown was shot so many times.

Why has it taken so long for details of the shooting to come out?

Wilson’s name was withheld for almost a week out of concerns for his safety. Three dueling autopsies have either been conducted or ordered—the standard one by the local medical examiner, a private one requested by the family, and a third one ordered by federal authorities.

And federal and state authorities have mostly declined to comment on their pending investigations, while leaks have been kept to a minimum, likely to avoid fanning the cycle of violence that has roiled the city’s downtown streets.

Who’s investigating all this?

Multiple authorities at various levels of law enforcement are looking into the shooting. A St. Louis County grand jury is probing the matter. And a federal civil rights investigation is also underway.

Why does violence keep breaking out every night?

It’s instigated by a small faction of what police describe as “agitators.” They mix in with the crowd of peaceful demonstrators, but they’re on the scene to confront cops as much as to mourn Brown. These people are shooting guns, hurling bricks, bottles and Molotov cocktails, and looting and vandalizing businesses. After dark, West Florissant Avenue and the neighboring streets are extremely dangerous, and several people have been shot.

Who’s trying to keep the peace in Ferguson?

On the demonstrators’ side, it’s a diverse collection of pastors, politicians, community leaders, black power groups, and many ordinary citizens who are disheartened by the way in which the violence has subverted the quest for justice. The vast majority of the protesters in the streets are peaceful—at least, until dark.

Riot-gear clad officers from the county and state highway patrol—now backed by the Missouri National Guard—have responded to provocations from protesters with tear gas, flash bangs, and other methods.

What happens next?

A St. Louis County grand jury will begin hearing evidence on Wednesday. But there’s no hard timetable on how long the whole process will take, and it could be weeks or months before the details of the investigation are know, the U.S. Attorney in Eastern Missouri told TIME Tuesday.

TIME Crime

Nobody Is Winning in Ferguson

Police Shooting Missouri
Police stand guard Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. Christian Gooden—AP

Everyone is being hurt by the tragic events in Ferguson

FERGUSON, Mo. — The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown is above all a tragedy for his family. But in Ferguson, Mo., there is more than enough tragedy to go around. Virtually no one connected to the tumult in this St. Louis suburb—whether by proximity, profession, or ideology; by happenstance or choice—has escaped the nightly clashes without suffering in ways big or small.

When darkness falls, violence rips through a battered strip of downtown and forks into quiet neighborhoods. Families are trapped in their homes as gunshots ring out and cops fire tear gas into apartment complexes. It’s become enough that some people are ready to leave. Anita Matlock, a 20-year-old certified nurse assistant, is breaking her lease at Canfield Green, the beige-and-brown three-story apartment complex that fronts the street where Brown was shot. The early morning hours there are now pierced by volleys of gunfire. “It’s too disruptive,” says her mother, Yvonne Matlock. “She can’t get in. Can’t get out. Can’t sleep.”

Ron Henry, from the nearby town of Florissant, says his fiancée Clarissa and his 3-year-old son, Ron Jr., had automatic weapons pointed at them by police while trying to leave his grandmother’s apartment near the center of the conflict. Their car was swallowed by smoke. “Rioting,” Henry says, “is the voice of the unheard.” But that doesn’t mean he wants to raise his family among it. “Does my three-year old son need to get gassed?” he asked.

The tumult has closed local schools, sending working parents scrambling to make arrangements to watch and feed their children. Last year, 68% of students in the Ferguson-Florissant school district received meal assistance of some kind; this year the program was extended to everyone. The loss of the subsidy stings for residents of a city whose median household income is about $36,000.

It’s been no better for businesses. Stores along West Florissant Avenue, the Ferguson thoroughfare that has been the locus of the riots, have been torched and looted. Many others in town are boarded up; the owner of a fashion boutique spray-painted “OPEN! BLACK OWNERS” onto the wooden planks covering the shop to deter vandals. At the shopping center about a quarter-mile down the road—where Missouri National Guard tanks are arrayed in rows in the parking lot and military observers perch on rooftops— sales have plunged as stores close early to avoid the evening chaos.

For everyone in the area, unpredictable police roadblocks turn driving after dark into a maze without an exit. After midnight, residents can find themselves on the wrong side of police barricades, unable to get home or to work. Even on the most peaceful days since the shooting, the streets are still unruly and chaotic, a cacophony of honking horns, angry shouts and carloads of people hanging out of windows, slinging epithets at police.

The vast majority of the hundreds, sometimes thousands of people protesting each day are law-abiding. But the large community of peaceful protesters, who have thronged the streets for nine days in an effort to bring social change, have seen a heartfelt cause partially co-opted by a small band of what law enforcement officials have described as “agitators.” In the morning, the protesters show up early to sweep the streets of the previous night’s trash. Day and night, they tote signs and chant slogans. On Monday, to comply with a new police edict that prohibited crowds from congregating in one spot, they resorted to walking laps, looping up and down West Florissant for hours, carrying red roses handed out by volunteers and passing out free water when people flagged in the stifling August heat.

For much of the day, community leaders are able to steer protests into sanctioned areas and keep the crowd in check. The challenge comes after nightfall. That’s when a faction of agitators files into the streets. They are there not to protest but to fight. They can mingle with the protesters, cloaking themselves in the crowd and making it hard for police to distinguish the troublemakers from the rest. Many are not from Ferguson. At least 78 people were arrested Monday night, and while most were reportedly from Missouri, some were from places as far-flung as California, New York, and Washington D.C.

According to locals and local enforcement officials, the ranks also include multiple gang members from Chicago and East St. Louis who have forged an uneasy truce to pursue a common enemy. There are young gang members who wrap red bandannas over their mouths, gas mask-wearing anarchists, and communist revolutionaries.

The violent faction has repeatedly derailed the demonstrations, despite the efforts of peaceful members of the crowd. Each night the struggle starts again. On Friday, the peace held until the early morning hours, when the fighters began looting businesses, hurling Molotov cocktails and setting fires. On Saturday, as time ticked away toward a midnight curfew, the peacekeepers roamed the crowd, imploring people to go home. Those that stayed were bent on conflict. “We ready to die,” one shouted as the gas came out. “They armed. We armed. Let’s do this!” said another.

Monday night brought an eerie calm to the streets. It was shattered around 9:30 p.m., when a clutch of agitators surged toward a police line, hurling glass bottles and plastic containers of water at officers. Police gathered their riot gear and put on their gas masks, readying for battle. Community leaders pleaded for the cops to hold off and confronted the provocateurs, linking their arms to form a human barricade between the crowd and the police. “Why are you doing this to us?” one peacekeeper screamed. It was a remarkable scene that seemed to defuse the situation.

A few minutes later someone threw a bottle, and the ritual chaos was unleashed.

As difficult as it is for the peaceful protesters, the skirmishes are no easier for police. Flat-screens around the U.S. have been flooded with images of armored trucks, riot-gear-clad police toting rifles, and clouds of gas. But those images rarely capture the chaos that precedes it.

Surveilling the streets of Ferguson is a chaotic job, marred by the mismanagement of the city police, jurisdictional tangles, hostile crowds, and tactics that seem to change nightly. The cops have been thrust into the impossible position of trying to balance intense political scrutiny with their mandate for public safety—and they are forced to carry out under the klieg lights of the national media, amid chaotic street fights.

“The situation, as volatile as it is, it doesn’t make a difference what decision you make. It will be wrong,” says one St. Louis County officer, who was not authorized to provide his name, as he patrolled a darkened street on Monday night, past graffiti scrawled on cement blocks that read “NO MORE PIGS.”

After heavy criticism for the military-style response by local law enforcement, the Missouri State Highway Patrol took control of the scene Thursday and adopted a laissez-faire approach. Riots broke out the next night. Police did little to stop the looting—partly on the advice of community leaders, who believed interceding could result in more violence. The next day, many protesters said they believed the hands-off treatment that allowed the rioting was a set-up to sully the crowd’s image.

The police are “working valiantly to protect the public, while at the some time preserving citizens’ rights to express their anger peacefully,” said Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat. “As we’ve seen over the past week, it is not an easy balance to strike. And it becomes much more difficult in the dark of night, when organized and increasingly violent instigators take to the streets intent on creating chaos.”

The protests are fueled by a deep distrust between the community and the cops. It is hard to find a black man or woman at the nightly gatherings who does not have a story about experiencing some manner of racial profiling, intimidation and even brutality at the hands of police. “Black people want retribution,” says James Davis, 45.

The police—most of whom had absolutely nothing to do with Michael Brown’s death—have their own loyalties and grievances. “We’re all gangs,” says one police officer of the factions in Ferguson. “We’re in a gang too, just because of the uniform we wear.”

Meanwhile, the residents of Ferguson, weary of the nightly battles, are starting to worry what it will all yield. “It would be an injustice in his name to go back to the violence,” says Lacy Raye of St. Louis. “We just have to turn it into a positive. I think this will change everything, if we can put it in a positive light. But I don’t know.”

TIME Crime

Violence Flares Anew in Ferguson Despite National Guard

A man is detained after a standoff between protesters and police on Aug. 18, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo.
A man is detained after a standoff between protesters and police on Aug. 18, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo. Charlie Riedel—AP

Protesters and police once again trade volleys of bottles and tear gas

Updated 8:24 a.m. ET

The deployment of the National Guard and the lifting of a curfew failed to prevent another night of violent clashes between protesters and police in Ferguson, Mo., late Monday night, as a day of almost eerie calm soon gave way to a night of mayhem and chaos. Protesters overpowered more peaceful demonstrators at about midnight and threw bottles at police, who responded with tear gas, as multiple gunshots were heard ringing out in this St. Louis suburb. Authorities later said 31 people were arrested.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon had hoped the National Guard, along with President Barack Obama’s repeated pleas for calm, might finally defuse the situation in Ferguson, which has been rocked by racial tensions ever since the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer on Aug. 9.

“Let’s seek to heal, rather than to wound each other,” Obama said in his latest remarks on the crisis Monday.

And for much of the day, it appeared as though tensions were cooling. Police had cordoned off parts of the downtown area and were allowing people to peacefully protest, and demonstrators marched up and down the streets with an air of positivity. But the peaceful demonstrators, who have lamented their violent counterparts keeping the town in the national spotlight, were met by a younger, rowdier group at about midnight. A human chain of peaceful demonstrators—including pastors and community leaders—briefly kept the more raucous protesters at bay, with the help of a line of police in tactical gear.

But as the protesters threw glass bottles at police, the police responded with tear gas. And the night once again devolved into the dispiriting spectacle of protesters throwing bottles, police pointing their guns or firing tear gas — in some cases from the open windows of unmarked white minivans, protesters scrambling away, and authorities rounding up people for arrest.

State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson later said his officers had come under heavy attack, including gunfire, but said “not a single bullet was fired by officers,” Reuters reports.

It remained unclear if National Guard troops were at the scene of the latest violence; some reports indicated they were, but the authorities on site appeared to be the state troopers Nixon previously brought into to take control of the situation, along with other local officers. Authorities on the scene said the National Guard was providing operational backup at a police command center nearby, and officials had previously made clear the Guard’s mission would be limited in scope.

“I’ll be watching over the next several days to assess whether it’s helping rather than hindering progress in Ferguson,” Obama said Monday of the National Guard presence.

Shortly before midnight, much of the main downtown thoroughfare where clashes were taking place was sealed off.

With reporting by Robert Klemko/Ferguson, Mo.

TIME Crime

Ferguson Community Sees a Double Injustice

Ferguson Lowenstein
Protestors look on during a peaceful demonstration on Florissant Ave. in Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 16, 2014. Jon Lowenstein—Noor for TIME

A largely peaceful group of protesters worries that incidents of violence will thwart a just cause

Some of them arrive not long after daybreak, bagging trash and sweeping broken glass and spent casings from streets bearing scars of the previous night’s battles. Others arrive toting crates of bottled water and burgers to hand out to their neighbors, or grill hot dogs for police in a gesture of peace. Still others bring young children, who scrawl hopeful messages on the sidewalks outside a torched store in brightly colored chalk.

Most of the residents of Ferguson, Mo., have been trying, in ways big and small, to advance two conflicting goals over the last nine days. One is the momentum of their protests over the shooting of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, on Aug. 9. The other is good public order. And if the outside world has seen the unrest in Ferguson as a stand-off between militarized police and occasionally violent protesters, many of Ferguson’s residents see themselves caught between the competing injustice of those two forces.

The job for Ferguson’s peaceful residents got harder overnight Sunday, as violence once again broke out after dark, punctuating a week marked by mayhem. At least two people were shot. Brawls broke out between what locals said were rival gang members toting guns. Shortly after, a protest march toward a police command center led officers to hurl tear gas, kicking off a frenzied scene. People hurled Molotov cocktails, shot at police and looted businesses.

There is no doubt that some of the people gathering on the streets of Ferguson are looking for confrontation. But the vast majority of the hundreds of protesters who have massed all week have been boisterous but peaceful. Dozens interviewed said they were voicing fury over what they believe is a long-standing pattern of police intimidation, profiling and brutality in a community that is two-thirds black but run by white cops and white politicians. The cops in riot gear and armored trucks this week merely extend a pattern of racial profiling, marked by slurs and random traffic stops over the years, these residents say. “You sort of get numb to it,” says Laroyce Mills, a demonstrator from nearby Jennings.

A recent report substantiates the claim that blacks are targeted more often by a Ferguson police department that is more than 90% white. The 2013 report by the office of the Attorney General of Missouri, found a pattern of racial profiling in Ferguson: blacks are far more likely to be stopped than whites; cops are nearly twice as likely to search blacks than others when they stop them; and they are a third less likely to find contraband when they do.

The violence that has overtaken the peaceful protests is just as frustrating to many in Ferguson. Much of it has been caused by people who gather under the pretext of Michael Brown’s death, then exploit the unrest as an opportunity to create mayhem.

“These people are not protestors. This is something different and it has little to do with #JusticeForMikeBrown,” tweeted Antonio French, a St. Louis alderman and community leader who has emerged as an important mediator. French and others believe the provocateurs are doing damage to a heartfelt cause. The images of looting and rioting threaten to rob Ferguson’s peaceful majority of political sympathy. They may stoke racial tensions even further, undercutting the message of the protests.

The peaceful majority are trying to assert control. On Friday night, as looters ransacked and set fire to businesses, groups of locals gathered in a line in front of shops to stand watch and prevent further destruction. On Saturday, in the tense hours preceding more post-midnight clashes, there were more people working the crowd and urging it to keep the peace than bad actors who ultimately helped shatter it. In interviews, many residents suggested the rioters were largely out-of-town troublemakers—from East St. Louis, or maybe Chicago; no one really knew—who jumped at the chance to confront police.

“There are a small percentage of people who are being inflammatory, and that’s not what we’re about,” says Paul Muhammad of nearby Florissant, Mo., who wore a black t-shirt advertising his unofficial “Peacekeepers” group, which worked the crowd Saturday night urging young demonstrators to heed the state-imposed curfew.

With about an hour before that curfew, a cluster of men huddled in a strategy session in a McDonald’s parking lot, debating the best way to disperse protesters. They knew part of the crowd was bent on confrontation. But they wanted to reach some of the angry young men who were convinced that to obey a curfew would be to negate the purpose of the protests.

People like Mark Lollis, 29, a student from Nashville, Tenn., who drove to Ferguson with friends to join the protests. The clashes are “an extreme action for an extreme action,” he told TIME. Later, he was reportedly one of many demonstrators to confront and shout at police.

The response to Brown’s shooting has drawn people from all walks of life to West Florissant Avenue, from the monks who gathered at the scorched QuikTrip convenience mart to political figures like Jesse Jackson to professionals for whom the gritty thoroughfare offers a stark juxtaposition from their everyday world.

One of them was Byron Strong, Sr., a black financial adviser who grew up in the area but has left it behind for a more prosperous suburb. “I’m in a coat and tie every day, so I’m not the kind of guy the cops tend to pull over,” Strong says. Saturday was his first night at the demonstrations, and he confided that he didn’t especially want to come. But there he was, standing under a gas-pump overhang for shelter from the driving rain, next to his teenage son, Byron Jr., a high-school football player with a build similar to Mike Brown.

“I just hope,” Byron Jr. says, “that justice comes at the end.”

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