TIME Missouri

Protests Turn Peaceful in Ferguson After Two Nights of Tension

The St. Louis suburb has seen demonstrations for days

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — Police outnumbered protesters along West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson on Tuesday night, perhaps signaling the demonstrations around the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death are starting to fade.

The crowd of around 100 demonstrators was mostly calm and peaceful. Occasionally a few people would march or start a chant, but they spent most of several hours milling around and chatting with one another.

Larry Miller, 58, organizer of the protest group Ferguson Freedom Fighters, said it was clear the latest round of demonstrations were dying down. He wasn’t convinced much was accomplished.

“We already know what needs to be happening is not happening,” Miller said. “We’re still bothered over the killing of Mike Brown because we still need police reform, criminal justice system reform.”

A tense moment Tuesday came when a couple dozen people briefly blocked traffic. But several officers in riot gear, along with St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, quickly moved to break it up.

Police said they made no arrests. Overall, it was a far cry from the violence and tension that marred the previous two nights.

The St. Louis suburb has seen demonstrations for days marking the anniversary of Brown’s killing on Aug. 9, 2014. Brown, 18, was fatally shot by former Ferguson officer Darren Wilson after a confrontation. A St. Louis County grand jury and the U.S. Department of Justice cleared Wilson, but Brown’s death spurred a national “Black Lives Matter” movement.

The events had largely been peaceful until Sunday night, when gunfire erupted and 18-year-old Tyrone Harris Jr. was shot by officers after they say he fired into an unmarked police van. Harris is hospitalized in critical condition and has been charged with 10 felonies.

St. Louis County police on Tuesday released a 13-second clip of security camera footage they say shows Harris minutes before he fired at plainclothes officers. The clip shows a person police identify as Harris grabbing a handgun from his waistband and running toward a parking lot, police say in response to the other shots being fired.

Harris’ father disputed the police account Monday but declined to discuss his son’s shooting Tuesday.

The gunfire and Harris’ shooting set the city on edge and had protest leaders worried that tensions would escalate. The St. Louis County executive declared a state of emergency Monday, a move that gave Belmar — instead of interim Ferguson Police Chief Andre Anderson — control of security.

On Monday night, the police presence was far greater. Officers lined several blocks of West Florissant, rather than staying confined to a smaller area. Unlike Sunday, there was no gunfire, no injuries and no reports of looting or property damage.

Still though, more than 20 people were arrested. Police never deployed smoke or tear gas, though they were at times pelted with water bottles and rocks.

By Tuesday night, there was far less tension. Police said in a statement that at one point, officers reported rocks being thrown at them. They took no action, and the rock-throwing soon stopped, according to the statement.

Even when armed members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right anti-government activist group whose presence Belmar has called “both unnecessary and inflammatory,” appeared, there was little conflict.

While one member was being interviewed by media, several protesters gathered around and chanted loud enough to drown him out briefly. Later, several Oath Keepers and protesters began arguing, but eventually shouting gave way to conversation, and the group parted ways with a pat on the back.

John Karriman, an Oath Keepers leader from southwest Missouri, said members plan to remain in Ferguson at least through the end of the week.

Belmar said the de-escalation over the past two nights was largely due to police work that has been learned in Ferguson since last August.

“It comes back to experience,” he said. “We look at it as we’ve seen it before.”

County Executive Steve Stenger said the state of emergency could be lifted as soon as Wednesday.

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Associated Press writers Jim Suhr and Alan Scher Zagier and video journalist John Mone contributed to this report.

TIME Crime

Ferguson Police Release Video Showing Moments Before Anniversary Shooting

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 09: In this handout provided by the St. Louis County Police Department, video surveillance taken from Solo Insurance Services, appears to show Tyrone Harris Jr. grab a handgun out of his waistband once shots are fired during the protest in the W. Florissant corridor, prior to the officer involved shooting on August 9, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. Tyrone Harris Jr., was shot and wounded by detectives during protests one year after the death of Michael Brown (Photo by St. Louis County Police Department via Getty Images)
St. Louis County Police Department/Getty Images In this handout provided by the St. Louis County Police Department, video surveillance appears to show Tyrone Harris Jr. grab a handgun once shots are fired during the protest in the W. Florissant corridor, prior to the officer involved shooting in St. Louis, Mo., on August 9, 2015 .

Tyrone Harris Jr. was shot on Monday after allegedly opening fire on officers

Authorities in Ferguson released on Tuesday a surveillance video they say shows a teenager pulling out a gun moments before he was shot and critically injured by plainclothes police.

According to the St. Louis County Police Department, the person who appears to grab a gun from his waistband around the 10-second mark has been identified as Tyrone Harris Jr., 18, by the city’s Bureau of Crimes Against Persons.

Harris, who is black, was shot after he opened fire on the officers on Monday, the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, according to the St. Louis police chief. His father called the authorities’ description of the events “a bunch of lies,” and said two girls who were with his son told him that he was unarmed.

Prosecutors charged Harris on Monday with 10 felonies, including four counts of first-degree assault on a law enforcement officer. He remains hospitalized in critical condition.

TIME U.S.

Scenes from the Ferguson Protests One Year After Michael Brown’s Death

On Aug. 9, 2014 the death of Michael Brown sparked sometimes violent protests and a year of debate about the nature of the relationship between police and African Americans. Now, on the anniversary of his death, fresh unrest threatens to enflame racial tensions once again

TIME Missouri

Patriot Group Brings Assault Rifles to Ferguson Protests

The Oath Keepers are described as a "fiercely anti-government, militaristic group"

Heavily-armed members of a controversial patriot group added an extra dose of unease to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, early Tuesday.

The Oath Keepers organization says its members — all former military, police and first responders — pledge to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

However, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar described their presence as “both unnecessary and inflammatory.”

Protesters and police confirmed that a handful of Oath Keepers with assault rifles, bulletproof vest and camouflage gear were seen early Tuesday on the streets of Ferguson, which was under a state of emergency following demonstrations pegged to the…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Missouri

Almost Two Dozen People Arrested on Fourth Night of Ferguson Protests

By early Monday evening, hundreds of people had gathered

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — Police arrested nearly two dozen people in Ferguson during a fourth consecutive night of demonstrations marking the anniversary of the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

The gathering that stretched into early Tuesday morning came a day after a protest along West Florissant Avenue that was interrupted by gunfire and a police shooting that left an 18-year-old critically injured. The violence set the St. Louis suburb on edge and had protest leaders worried about whether tensions would escalate.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger declared a state of emergency, which authorized county Police Chief Jon Belmar to take control of police emergency management in and around Ferguson.

By early Monday evening, hundreds of people had gathered again along West Florissant, the thoroughfare that was the site of massive protests and rioting after Brown was fatally shot last year in a confrontation with a Ferguson police officer.

The protesters chanted, beat drums and carried signs. When some in the group moved into a traffic lane, officers in riot gear forced people out of the street. Some demonstrators threw water bottles and other debris at officers.

Belmar told The Associated Press: “They’re not going to take the street tonight. That’s not going to happen.”

Ferguson resident Hershel Myers Jr., 46, criticized the police response as aggressive and unnecessary.

A military veteran, he added, “It’s wrong for me to have to go overseas and fight with ‘Army’ across my chest, but we can’t fight on our own street where I live.”

By 1 a.m., the crowd and police presence along West Florissant had been begun to diminish.

County police spokesman Shawn McGuire said approximately 23 arrests were made, though police were still confirming official totals.

There were no shots fired and no burglaries, looting or property damage during the protest, McGuire said in a statement. No smoke or tear gas was used, and no police or civilians reported injuries, he said.

Protests also spilled outside of Ferguson earlier Monday. Almost 60 people, including scholar and civil rights activist Cornel West, were arrested around midday for blocking the entrance to the federal courthouse in downtown St. Louis. Another group later briefly blocked Interstate 70 during the late afternoon rush hour, with an additional 64 arrests, according to McGuire.

At the protest that began Sunday night, tensions escalated after several hundred people gathered in the street, ignoring repeated warnings to get to the sidewalk or face arrest. Then, several gunshots suddenly rang out from an area near a strip of stores, including some that had been looted moments earlier. The shots sent protesters and reporters running for cover.

Belmar said he believed there were six shooters, including 18-year-old Tyrone Harris Jr., who Belmar said then opened fire on officers.

Police had been watching Harris during the protest out of concern that he was armed, the chief said.

During the gunfire, Harris crossed the street and apparently spotted plainclothes officers arriving in an unmarked van with distinctive red and blue police lights, Belmar said. The suspect allegedly shot into the windshield of the van.

The four officers in the van fired back, then pursued the suspect on foot. The suspect again fired on the officers when he became trapped in a fenced-in area, Belmar said, and all four opened fire.

Harris was in critical condition after surgery. Prosecutors announced 10 charges against him — five counts of armed criminal action, four counts of first-degree assault on a law enforcement officer and a firearms charge. All 10 are felonies.

All four officers in the van, each wearing protective vests, escaped injury. They were not wearing body cameras, Belmar said.

Harris’ father called the police version of events “a bunch of lies.” He said two girls who were with his son told him he was unarmed and had been drawn into a dispute involving two groups of young people.

Tyrone Harris Sr. told The Associated Press his son was a close friend of Michael Brown and was in Ferguson on Sunday night to pay respects.

The elder Harris said his son got caught up in a dispute among two groups of young people and was “running for his life” after gunfire broke out.

“My son was running to the police to ask for help, and he was shot,” he said. “It’s all a bunch of lies … They’re making my son look like a criminal.”

Online court records show that Tyrone Harris Jr. was charged in November with stealing a motor vehicle and a gun, as well as resisting arrest by fleeing. A court hearing in that case is scheduled for Aug. 31.

Belmar said the suspect who fired on officers had a semi-automatic 9 mm gun that was stolen last year.

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Associated Press reporter Alan Scher Zagier and photographer Jeff Roberson contributed to this report.

 

TIME Missouri

State of Emergency Declared in Ferguson After Some Protests Turn Violent

ferguson police protests
Michael B. Thomas—AFP/Getty Images A group of demonstrators yell in front of police officers during a protest march on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo. on August 9, 2015.

The protests come a day after police shot a man they say fired at officers during a memorial for Michael Brown

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger has declared a state of emergency in and around Ferguson, Mo. following the arrest of several dozen protestors the day after officers shot a man they say opened fire on police on the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death.

“The recent acts of violence will not be tolerated in a community that has worked so tirelessly over the last year to rebuild and become stronger,” Stenger said in a statement. “The time and investment in Ferguson … will not be destroyed by a few that wish to violate the rights of others.”

Police arrested around 50 demonstrators on Monday, including Cornel West, who blocked a federal courthouse in St. Louis while protesting racial bias in law enforcement.

A group of activists blocked off part of Interstate 70 near Ferguson on Monday evening, holding hands and stopping traffic, as witnesses documented it on social media. Video footage posted by CNN showed police officers apprehending one of the protestors.

https://twitter.com/OutFrontCNN/status/630875633225064448

Earlier that day, county prosecutors announced 10 felony charges against 18-year-old Tyrone Harris Jr., including four counts of first-degree assault on a law enforcement officer, five counts of armed criminal action and one firearms-related charge.

St. Louis County police chief Jon Belmar said Harris Jr. shot a “remarkable amount of gunfire” into the windshield of a van containing plainclothes police on Sunday night. Police returned fire at Harris Jr., who underwent surgery and is in critical condition.

Harris’ father, however, called the police’s version of the story “a bunch of lies” and said two girls that were with his son told him Harris Jr. was unarmed.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch condemned the violence on Monday. Speaking at the national conference of the Fraternal Order of Police, she said, “The weekend’s events were peaceful and promoted a message of reconciliation and healing. But incidents of violence, such as we saw last night, are contrary to both that message, along with everything that all of us, including this group, have worked to achieve over the past year.”

The Department of Justice said in a statement that the arrested protestors “are being processed as quickly as can administratively be accomplished…and are being released on a summons.”

TIME Crime

See the Protests in Ferguson on the Anniversary of Michael Brown’s Death

A day of peaceful remembrance marking the anniversary of 18-year-old Michael Brown's killing by police in Ferguson came to a violent end when a man was shot by police after he opened fire on them

TIME Crime

Man Shot, Critically Injured in Ferguson on Anniversary of Michael Brown’s Death

"They were criminals. They weren't protesters"

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — A suspect who authorities say opened fire on officers in Ferguson, Missouri, on the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death was critically wounded when the officers shot back, St. Louis County’s police chief said Monday.

But the father of the suspect, 18-year-old Tyrone Harris Jr., called the police version of events “a bunch of lies.” He said two girls who were with his son told him he was unarmed and had been drawn into a dispute involving two groups of young people.

St. Louis County prosecutors on Monday announced 10 charges against Harris — five counts of armed criminal action, four counts of first-degree assault on a law enforcement officer and a firearms charge. All 10 are felonies.

It was not immediately clear if the latest police shooting of a black suspect would spur renewed unrest in Ferguson, the site of many protests — some violent — in the aftermath of Brown’s death on Aug. 9, 2014. Protest groups were quick to criticize the police response to protesters who gathered late Sunday along West Florissant Avenue.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said at a news conference that officers had been tracking the suspect, who they believed was armed, during a protest marking the death of Brown, the black, unarmed 18-year-old whose killing by a white Ferguson police officer touched off the national “Black Lives Matter” movement.

At the height of what was already a rowdy protest in which rocks and bottles were thrown at officers, gunshots rang out from the area near a strip of stores, including some that had been looted. Belmar believes the shots came from about six different shooters. It was not clear what prompted the exchange, but Belmar said the groups had been feuding.

At one point, the suspect crossed the street and apparently spotted the plainclothes officers arriving in an unmarked van with distinctive red and blue police lights, Belmar said. He said the suspect shot into the hood and windshield.

The officers fired back at him from inside the vehicle and then pursued him on foot when he ran.

The suspect fired on officers again after he became trapped in a fenced-in area, the chief said, and all four officers fired back. He was struck and fell and was taken to a hospital, where Belmar said he was in “critical, unstable” condition.

Tyrone Harris Sr. told The Associated Press his son was a close friend of Michael Brown and was in Ferguson Sunday night to pay respects.

Harris said his son got caught up in a dispute among two groups of young people and was “running for his life” after gunfire broke out. He said the girls who were with his son said he had no weapons.

“My son was running to the police to ask for help, and he was shot,” he said. “It’s all a bunch of lies … They’re making my son look like a criminal.”

The younger Harris does not have a listed attorney.

The suspect had a semi-automatic 9 mm gun that was stolen last year from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Belmar said.

None of the officers was seriously injured. All four have been put on administrative leave, which is standard procedure. They were not wearing body cameras, Belmar said.

The shooting happened around 11:15 p.m. Sunday, sending protesters and reporters running for cover.

Belmar waved off any notion that the people with the weapons were part of the protest.

“They were criminals. They weren’t protesters,” he said.

Some protest groups were critical of police.

“It was a poor decision to use plainclothes officers in a protest setting because it made it difficult for people to identify police officers, which is essential to the safety of community members,” Kayla Reed, a field organizer with the Organization of Black Struggle, said in a statement.

“After a year of protest and conversation around police accountability, having plainclothes officers without body cameras and proper identification in the protest setting leaves us with only the officer’s account of the incident, which is clearly problematic.”

Early Monday, another reported shooting drew officers to an apartment building in the area. Two males told police they were targeted in a drive-by shooting near the memorial to Brown outside Canfield Apartments. A 17-year-old was shot in the chest and shoulder, and a 19-year-old was shot in the chest, but their injuries were not life-threatening, authorities said.

Separately, police said a 17-year-old suspect has been charged with unlawful use of a weapon and one count of resisting arrest after he fired shots near the protesters late Sunday. He is being held on $100,000 bond.

The anniversary of Brown’s killing, which cast greater scrutiny on how police interact with black communities, has sparked days of renewed protests, though until Sunday they had been peaceful and without any arrests.

Before the gunfire, protesters were blocking traffic and confronting police. One person threw a glass bottle at officers but missed.

For the first time in three consecutive nights of demonstrations, some officers were dressed in riot gear, including bulletproof vests and helmets with shields. Police used smoke to disperse a crowd that lingered on West Florissant, Belmar said.

One officer was treated for cuts after a rock was thrown at his face, and two officers were pepper-sprayed by protesters, county police said. Five people were arrested.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Paul Hampel was beaten and robbed by attackers while covering the unrest. Hampel said he was taking photos and videos of break-ins along West Florissant Avenue when he was rushed from behind. He was bloodied and spent the night in a hospital with a concussion.

 

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Associated Press writer Jim Suhr and photographer Jeff Roberson contributed to this report.

TIME Missouri

Ferguson Marks Anniversary of Michael Brown’s Death

Brown's father, Michael Brown Sr., led a parade involving several hundred people on Saturday

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — One year after the shooting that cast greater scrutiny on how police interact with black communities, the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, was marked Sunday with 4½ minutes of silence.

A crowd of hundreds that had gathered to commemorate Brown began their silence at 12:02 p.m., the time he was killed, and the length of time was to symbolize the 4½ hours that his body lay in the street after he was killed. Two doves were released at the end.

A march was to start at the site where Brown, who was black and unarmed, was fatally shot by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014. A grand jury and the U.S. Department of Justice declined to prosecute Wilson, who resigned in November, but the shooting touched off a national “Black Lives Matter” movement.

A service commemorating the anniversary was also planned at a Ferguson church, among several events this weekend in Ferguson and nearby St. Louis.

Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., led a parade involving several hundred people on Saturday. Brown said his family is still grieving, but he believes his son’s legacy can be seen in the increased awareness of police shootings, and renewed skepticism when officers describe their side of events leading up to those shootings.

Some people who marched in the Saturday parade wore T-shirts with likenesses of Brown or messages such as “Please stop killing us” or “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” which became a rallying cry during the sometimes-violent protests that followed the shooting a year ago. Some carried signs or wore shirts commemorating others who have been killed in confrontations with police.

But the focus of the weekend is largely on Brown, who graduated from high school weeks before the shooting and planned to go to trade school to study to become a heating and air conditioning technician.

Relatives and friends described Brown as a quiet, gentle giant who stood around 6-foot-3 and weighed nearly 300 pounds. But police said Brown stole items from a convenience store and shoved the owner who tried to stop him on the morning of Aug. 9, 2014. Moments later, he and a friend were walking on Canfield Drive when Wilson, who is white, told them to move to the sidewalk.

That led to a confrontation inside Wilson’s police car. It spilled outside, and Wilson claimed that Brown came at him, menacingly, leading to the fatal shooting. Some witnesses claimed Brown had his hands up in surrender. Federal officials concluded there was no evidence to disprove testimony by Wilson that he feared for his safety, nor was there reliable evidence that Brown had his hands up in surrender when he was shot.

The shooting led to protests, some violent, and the unrest escalated again in November when a St. Louis County grand jury determined that Wilson did nothing wrong. He resigned days later. The November riots included fires that burned more than a dozen businesses.

The Justice Department reached the same conclusion in March, clearing Wilson. But in a separate report, the Justice Department cited racial bias and profiling in policing as well as a profit-driven municipal court system that often targeted black residents, who make up about two-thirds of Ferguson’s populace.

Ferguson’s city manager, police chief and municipal judge resigned within days of that report. All three were white. The new judge, interim city manager and interim police chief are all black.

TIME Missouri

Michael Brown’s Father Says Family Still in Mourning

The anniversary brings back all of the grief and raw emotions, he said

(FERGUSON, Mo.)—On the eve of the anniversary of Michael Brown being shot and killed during a confrontation with a police officer, Brown’s father said Saturday that the family is still mourning the 18-year-old’s death.

Several weekend events are commemorating the one-year anniversary of Brown’s death on Aug. 9, 2014. Among them was a parade on Saturday led by Michael Brown Sr., starting at the memorial on Canfield Drive in Ferguson that marks the site where Brown was fatally shot by former officer Darren Wilson.

Time has not healed his wounds, Brown said before the procession, in which several hundred people, a drum corps and some cars joined in on the five-mile route to Normandy High School.

“At the end of the day, I still lost my boy,” he said. “I’m still hurting. My family’s still hurting.”

Brown said the anniversary brings back all of the grief and raw emotions, but that it’s important to continue standing up to concerns about police brutality and the use of force. His son’s death helped spur a national “Black Lives Matter” movement. As the parade began, he took an armful of stuffed animals and placed them in the middle of the street where his son died.

The U.S. Justice Department and a St. Louis County grand jury cleared Wilson, who resigned in November, of wrongdoing. A separate Justice Department investigation of Ferguson’s justice system found evidence of a profit-driven court system and widespread racial bias by police.

Onlookers were mostly scattered in small clusters on Saturday. Ferguson interim Police Chief Andre Anderson stood alongside St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar and Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol on West Florissant Avenue — the site of protests, looting and riots in the aftermath of Brown’s death — waving to parade participants and shaking hands with some.

A vocal group of about 30 people marching in the parade began chanting “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” as they neared the officers, then “Pigs in a blanket fry like bacon.” Otherwise, the crowd was peaceful. Police presence was limited mostly to officers at intersections keeping traffic away from the parade, and there were no immediate reports of confrontations.

Darius Simpson, 22, made the trip to Ferguson from Eastern Michigan University for the weekend and was in the parade. Simpson, who is black, said he had never been an activist until Brown’s death, but said a visit to Ferguson last year during the height of the unrest changed him.

“Something snapped in me, seeing the memorial, seeing how Ferguson reacted inspired me to take it back to Michigan,” Simpson said.

St. Louis resident Carlatta Bussey, 41, brought her 7-year-old son. “I wanted to show him he needs to stand up for what he believes in,” said Bussey, who is black. “It’s important for him to know he has a voice.”

Marches were planned later Saturday in St. Louis and on Sunday, again starting on Canfield Drive. The Sunday march will stop just before noon for a moment of silence to mark the moment Brown was killed.

Brown’s father said a lot of families in the St. Louis area and across the nation are hurting because they’ve lost loved ones to police violence. Though some groups are pledging civil disobedience in the St. Louis region, Brown urged everyone to mark his son’s death in peace.

“No drama,” he said. “No stupidity, so we can just have some kind of peace.”

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