TIME Crime

Ferguson Reaches ‘Turning Point’ as Violence Eases

Andrew Cutraro—REDUX for TIME

Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson praised the efforts of the local community in helping to disperse violent protests, as 47 were arrested

Tuesday night marked a significant decline in violence between protesters and police in Ferguson, Mo., 10 days after the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer brought nights of unrest to the streets of this St. Louis suburb.

For the first night in a week, police did not employ tear gas, instead using National Guard tactical teams to identify the loudest and most imposing protesters, arresting some 47 people, mostly for failure to disperse. Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson told reporters at an early morning conference that it was a sea change from the looting and unrest of previous nights.

“I believe there was a turning point made tonight,” he said, speaking the day Attorney General Eric Holder was due to arrive in Ferguson to meet with investigators looking into the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer on Aug. 9. A grand jury probe of Brown’s death was also expected to be convened on Wednesday morning.

Johnson praised the efforts of local clergy and civilians to diffuse the tension on the contested strip of West Florissant Ave. Peacefully-protesting organizers, including members of the clergy, held a large prayer circle at 12:35 a.m., then sought to send the crowd home rather than see them clash with police.

In the minutes following that prayer, elder protesters approached the teens and 20-somethings on the fringes and pleaded with them to go home. Most, if not all, declined. In an exchange witnessed by this reporter, linebacker-sized community activist Paul Muhammad, wearing fatigues and a black t-shirt reading “Peacekeepers,” approached a teenage boy wearing a red bandana over his face. “If you’re going to be out here all night, then I’ll be out here all night. Let’s just go home,” he said. When the teen demurred, Muhammad asked him to show his face. “You don’t need the mask,” he said. The teenager replied: “I don’t got no face.”

It was from this cluster of fringe onlookers, who had declined to participate in marches up and down W. Florissant for much of the evening, that a single water bottle was hurled at police. The bottle missed its mark, yet set in motion a police advance south on W. Florissant, with glass and urine being hurled at police and officers responding by pepper-spraying several protesters. One such agitator, said Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, was an out-of-state violator from Austin, Texas.

Johnson was visibly weary yet in a celebratory mood after a day that saw several store owners re-open their doors on W. Florissant, and an easing of nighttime violence. He told reporters at a 2:30 a.m. news conference that he and other officers had encountered a local woman grilling out on her front lawn. She offered officers “hot dogs and ice-cold water,” he said, “and what a good hot dog it was. That is the true spirit of Ferguson.”

Demonstrators in Ferguson have decried what they describe as an influx of out-of-towners who have been involved in violence and looting. In the previous day’s clash with police, 21st ward alderman Antonio French claimed to have identified a man from Chicago in a picture who was launching projectiles at police.

Peaceful protesters on Tuesday night took heed of the reports of French and others, carefully monitoring protesters who seemed non-native to St. Louis County. At one point, two masked men hurled to the ground a fair-skinned man who seemed to reach for a brick as police advanced toward the group of protesters. The man recovered and ran south and out of sight as his attackers screamed “Where you from?”

Missouri Attorney-General Chris Koster earlier in the day delivered to protesters the news of the grand jury investigation. That news, repeated over and over again on a loudspeaker by a protester following the impromptu prayer, didn’t seem to resonate with those who had earlier chanted the anti-police invective “F–k 12.”

For them, these protests have become about something else.

—With reporting by P. Nash Jenkins

TIME Ferguson

Attorney General Holder Appeals for Calm in Message to Ferguson

Obama Meets Holder About the Situation in Ferguson
United States Attorney General Eric Holder looks on during a meeting in the Oval office of the White House with U.S. President Obama to receive an update on the situation in Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014 in Washington, DC. Olivier Douliery—Olivier Douliery/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

"This is my pledge to the people of Ferguson: Our investigation into this matter will be full, it will be fair, and it will be independent."

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called for an end to the violence in Ferguson, Missouri, as he promised the Justice Department investigation into the shooting death of an unarmed teen by a police officer “will be full, it will be fair, and it will be independent.”

“At a time when so much may seem uncertain, the people of Ferguson can have confidence that the Justice Department intends to learn — in a fair and thorough manner — exactly what happened,” Holder wrote in a piece published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The U.S. Attorney investigating the case told TIME Tuesday his department’s work is going smoothly, but cautioned the released of information will be a slow process.

Holder’s message comes as violent unrest continues nightly in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson after the August 9 death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old killed by a police officer there. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon ordered National Guard troops to the area Monday after local police were heavily criticized for what many argued has been an excessive response to the unrest. However, the National Guard’s presence did little to calm tensions Monday night, as at least 78 people were arrested during violent demonstrations that continued through the evening.

Holder arrived in Ferguson Tuesday to take stock of the situation and “be briefed on the federal civil rights investigation” that’s currently underway, he wrote. Holder says the Department of Justice has committed around 40 Federal Bureau of Investigation agents to the case in addition to Civil Rights Division prosecutors investigating the shooting. Holder also urged Ferguson’s peaceful protestors to work together to calm those who have been looting and rioting during the ongoing demonstrations.

“I urge the citizens of Ferguson who have been peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights to join with law enforcement in condemning the actions of looters, vandals and others seeking to inflame tensions and sow discord,” Holder wrote.

TIME Crime

Grand Jury to Probe Ferguson Teen’s Death

As city issues call for "nighttime quiet and reconciliation"

A grand jury will begin investigating the circumstances surrounding the fatal police shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo., officials said Tuesday, an incident that has sparked more than a week of violent protests in the St. Louis suburb.

A spokesman for the St. Louis County prosecutor on the case told Bloomberg News that a grand jury probe would begin on Wednesday, and that grand jurors will ask Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson to testify about the events that led to the shooting of Michael Brown.

Meanwhile, the city of Ferguson released a notice to residents urging them to stay indoors at night and allow “peace to settle in, and allow for the justice process to take its course.”

The city has been rocked by nighttime protests over the past 10 days, which police have responded to with volleys of tear gas.

TIME Ferguson protests

Gov. Nixon Sent The National Guard to Ferguson. What Will It Do?

A primer on America’s oldest military force

On Monday, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, seeking to control a nine-day protest in Ferguson after the shooting of a black teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer, announced that he would deploy the National Guard to the St. Louis suburb.

Here’s a very brief primer on the National Guard, America’s oldest branch of the armed forces, and how it will be used in Ferguson.

What does the National Guard do?

The National Guard works under three frameworks: mobilization overseas that is federally controlled and funded (think Iraq and Afghanistan); missions funded by the federal government but led by the states (Hurricane Sandy and the 2009 Obama inauguration); and state funded and controlled responses to emergencies (2011 Joplin and 2013 Moore tornadoes), according to Rick Breitenfeldt, a National Guard spokesman. Nixon is working under the third framework, directing the Missouri State Highway Patrol to oversee the National Guard’s work protecting citizens from violence.

When was the last time they were deployed?

Last week 40 National Guard personnel monitored a Hawaii neighborhood after reports of looting followed a tropical storm, according to a local ABC affiliate. Near the end of July, Texas Governor Rick Perry announced he would deploy the National Guard to beef up border security after record-high numbers of unaccompanied minors crossed into the state from Mexico.

The last time the Guard was federalized for a civil disturbance was 1992, when President Bill Clinton sent in thousands of National Guard personnel to quell Los Angeles’ Rodney King riots. There are major differences between that deployment and this one, though, including the size of the protests (the King riots were much more costly in blood and treasure) and who gave the order to deploy federal troops.

How will the National Guard be used in Ferguson?

In his announcement Monday, Gov. Nixon said the mission would be “limited” to protecting the police’s Unified Command Center, which he called the target of a “coordinated attack” during the preceding violence. Unless the federal government appropriates money, Missouri will have to pay for the additional troops, which will be acting essentially as policemen even if they are wearing military gear. Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan Administration, says the “perception” of an overly brutal, militarized police may be strengthened by the deployment of the National Guard.

“The Ferguson police obviously didn’t seem to be up to the job,” says Korb. “If [Missouri State Highway Patrol] Captain [Ronald] Johnson says well I can’t handle this anymore then you’ve got to go to the next step to stop the violence. But then you get into the whole other question of what kind of signal are you sending… Most people were complaining that the police look like the military, now the military is there. These guys wear military uniforms.”

TIME poverty

How Ferguson Went From Middle Class to Poor in a Generation

Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
A man with a skateboard protesting the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer walks away from tear gas released by police August 17, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Joshua Lott—Getty Images

The same decay that sparked unrest in one Missouri town is taking place across the country

In 1990, Ferguson, Mo. was a middle class suburban enclave north of St. Louis with a population about three-quarters white. In 2000, the town’s population was roughly split between black and white with an unemployment rate of 5%. By 2010, the population was two-thirds black, unemployment had exceeded 13%, and the number of residents living in poverty had doubled in a decade.

Demographic transformation came fast and stark to Ferguson, Missouri. So what happened?

The situation there is “really not so different than the rest of St. Louis County,” said Dr. Norm White, a criminologist with the Saint Louis University School of Social Work. “The problems we saw in the urban core have become the problems of the suburban umbrella.”

The big picture trends White describes aren’t even unique to St. Louis County. Poverty in America’s suburbs has been on the increase nationwide for decades, as the suburbs themselves have grown and affordable housing options moved farther out from urban centers. Opportunities for low-skill jobs—already diminished due to the decline in American manufacturing—in sectors like retail and construction have became more concentrated in suburbs. And its not only a matter of emigration of low income people into the suburbs. Long-term residents in some places have became poorer; suburban areas were hit particularly hard by the recession and housing crisis in the 2000s.

With respect to St. Louis in particular, White points to the razing of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project — a public works project as extraordinary a failure as was the scale of its original vision — as a key factor in the flight to the suburbs. First erected in the early 1950s, the 33, 11-story towers on 57 sprawling acres in St. Louis was designed by the architect who went on to build NYC’s now-fallen World Trade Center.

The complex was intended to be a modern, vibrant community to replace the old poverty-stricken neighborhoods of the poor. In reality, the structures became crime-plagued labyrinths left unmaintained by the city and beginning in 1972 they were torn down, jumpstarting the processes that sent the poor of St. Louis, as elsewhere, out of the city and into the suburbs in search of affordable places to live.

Like most states, Missouri allows for highly fragmented municipalities, each of which retains its own tax revenues and the power to write its own zoning laws. Newer, wealthier suburbs sometimes write zoning restrictions to ban high-density housing, and thus affordable apartments. But Ferguson, an older suburb, has no such restrictions, according to Professor Clarissa Rile Hayward of Washington University in St. Louis. The result is a town where the population of the poor is not only large but also highly concentrated.

“A decade ago, none of the neighborhoods there had poverty rates above 16%,” says Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who has written extensively on the rapid growth of suburban poverty in America. Now every neighborhood but one in the town has a poverty rate over 20%, the point at which typical social ills associated with poverty like poor health outcomes, high crime rates and failing schools start to appear, she says.

“Ferguson is just the place that the scab got pulled off,” White, the criminologist, tells TIME. “The reason why this is so intense is that there are a lot of these little communities that have been left almost to rot. Physically the buildings are falling down. There are no social service programs.”

As to whether or not the spotlight currently shining on the problem of suburban decay will result in a renewed commitment to address poverty in the U.S., White believes politicians and the media will move on. “You listen when the fires are burning,” he said, “but you then go away when the fires are extinguished.”

TIME Crime

Missouri Governor Lifts Ferguson Curfew

Thousands of people demonstrated today in support of Mike Brown who was gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri 9 days ago. About 8:30 a large protest march was organized in which approximately 1 - 2000 people participated. The group marched to the State Police Command Center on West Florrisant Ave. before they were met with a cascade of tear gas, flash bombs, rubber bullets and other methods used by police to disperse the crowd. Chaos ensued as protestors continued to fight the onward movement of the armored assult vehicles that moved toward them.
A protestor retaliates against police during violent clashes in Ferguson, Mo. on Aug. 17, 2014. Jon Lowenstein—Noor for TIME

National Guard will help keep the peace on Monday night

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced Monday that with the added presence of the National Guard in Ferguson, the curfew imposed Saturday night will be lifted.

Ferguson was rocked by violent disorder over two nights Saturday and Sunday, after Nixon imposed a curfew on the town following protests sparked by the Aug. 9 killing of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer.

In the week since the killing, hundreds of demonstrators have taken to the streets in Ferguson, which led to clashes between law enforcement and some protestors.

Nixon said in a statement the added presence of the National Guard will help protect the Unified Command Center, which he says was the target of a “coordinated attack” Sunday night.

The National Guard appear to be going in as backup for the local law enforcement and Missouri State Highway Patrol, who will continue to “respond appropriately to incidents of lawlessness and violence, and protect the civil rights of all peaceful citizens to make their voices heard.”

Nixon also condemned the violence in Ferguson on both sides, and called for peace as the community searches for answers.

“We are all frustrated and looking for justice to be achieved regarding the shooting death of Michael Brown. As the dual investigations continue into what happened nine days ago at Canfield Green, we must defend Ferguson from these violent interlopers so that the peaceful protests can operate in peace and the search for answers and justice can continue.”

 

TIME Missouri

Missouri Governor Calls off Ferguson Curfew

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon says no curfew will be in place early Tuesday morning in Ferguson, and the National Guard keeping watch there will have immediate and limited” responsibilities.

A midnight to 5 a.m. curfew had been in place the previous two nights.

Nixon ordered the National Guard into the St. Louis suburb following another night of rioting, more than a week after a Ferguson police officer fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown.

In a statement Monday, Nixon said Missouri National Guard Brigadier General Gregory Mason will oversee Guard operations in Ferguson under the overall command of the state highway patrol. He says the Guard’s limited role will be to provide protection and ensure the safety of the police command center that was believed to be targeted Sunday night.

TIME Crime

Supporters Raise $10K for Police Officer Who Shot Michael Brown

Money raised in only 19 hours

An online fundraising page has raised $10,000 to help support Darren Wilson, the white Ferguson, Mo., police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown earlier this month.

The GoFundMe page attached to the project reads: “We stand behind Officer Darren Wilson and his family during this trying time in their lives. All proceeds will be sent directly to Darren Wilson and his family for any financial needs they may have including legal fees.”

It took 288 people only 19 hours to raise the money, and the page has been shared more than 3,500 times on Facebook. Many of the comments on the site include love and prayers for Wilson and his family, and some statements about Wilson being innocent until proven guilty.

“I pray that our media, politicians and criminal justice system are strong enough to resist the modern day lynch mob mentality and permit reason and justice to prevail,” wrote one person who donated $100.

Wilson was identified Friday as the officer who shot Brown, whose death has led to violent protests and clashes with police in Ferguson. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon deployed the National Guard on Monday to try to restore calm.

TIME Crime

Lawyer: Michael Brown’s Family Wants Officer’s Arrest

"What else do we need to give them to arrest the killer of my child?"

+ READ ARTICLE

The family of Michael Brown has called for the arrest of the officer who shot and killed the unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Mo., their attorneys said, after an independent autopsy revealed Brown had been shot at least six times in the altercation.

In a press conference Monday following the release of an independent autopsy conducted for the family, attorneys and medical examiners said that Brown had been shot at least six times, but likely died from a bullet that entered at the top of his head.

The independent autopsy was conducted by Dr. Michael Baden, former chief medical examiner of New York City, and was requested by the victim’s family because “they could not trust what was going to be put in the reports about the tragic execution of their child,” according to family attorney Benjamin Crump.

Crump said that after the autopsy, Brown’s mother asked, “what else do we need to give them to arrest the killer of my child?”

The autopsy also appears to verify eyewitness accounts of the shooting, according to attorneys and Baden, and suggests that Brown may have been shot while trying to surrender to the officer. “Why would he be shot in the very top of his head?” asked Daryl Parks, another attorney for the Brown family. “A 6’4″ man? It makes no sense.”

Michael Brown was shot and killed during the daytime on Aug. 9 by a Ferguson police officer named as Darren Wilson, and his death has sparked mass demonstrations and rioting that police have attempted to quell with tear gas and smoke canisters. After a week of protests, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon ordered the National Guard to Ferguson Monday to try to preserve the peace.

Forensic examiner Dr. Michael Baden, who is known for reviewing the autopsies of John F. Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., said that the autopsy revealed no signs of a struggle, and that Brown likely died from the bullet wound to the top of his head. He also said he did not recover any gunshot residue from the body, implying that the gun was at least 1-2 feet away from the victim, but he cannot be certain of that until he sees Brown’s clothes.

Dr. Baden also noted the exceptional national attention this case has attracted. “Many black men die of accident or homicide in this country, but rarely has the President of the United States gotten involved,” he said.

TIME Crime

Missouri Governor Sends National Guard to Ferguson

Governor Jay Nixon made the announcement in a statement issued early on Monday after another night of clashes between police and protesters in Ferguson

Updated: Aug. 18, 2014, 3:25 a.m. E.T.

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the National Guard to Ferguson early Monday, hours after police used tear gas to clear protesters off the streets following a week of demonstrations against the fatal police shooting of a black Missouri teenager.

In a statement, Nixon said the National Guard would help “in restoring peace and order” to this the St. Louis suburb that has been filled almost nightly with angry, defiant crowds.

“These violent acts are a disservice to the family of Michael Brown and his memory and to the people of this community who yearn for justice to be served and to feel safe in their own homes,” Nixon said.

The latest confrontations came on the same day that Attorney General Eric Holder ordered a federal medical examiner to perform another autopsy on a black Missouri teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer. A preliminary private autopsy found that Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head.

As night fell in Ferguson, another peaceful protest quickly deteriorated after marchers pushed toward one end of a street. Police pushed them back by repeatedly firing tear gas, and the streets were empty well before the curfew took effect at midnight.

Authorities said they were responding to reports of gunfire, looting, vandalism and protesters who hurled Molotov cocktails.

“Based on the conditions, I had no alternative but to elevate the level of response,” said Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, who is command in Ferguson.

At least two people wounded in shootings, he said.

The “extraordinary circumstances” surrounding the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown and a request by Brown’s family members prompted the Justice Department’s decision to conduct a third autopsy, agency spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement.

The examination was to take place as soon as possible, Fallon said.

The results of a state-performed autopsy would be taken into account along with the federal examination in the Justice Department investigation, Fallon said.

Dr. Michael Baden, a former New York City chief medical examiner, told The New York Times that one of the bullets entered the top of Brown’s skull, suggesting that his head was bent forward when he suffered a fatal injury.

Brown was also shot four times in the right arm, and all the bullets were fired into his front, Baden said.

The Justice Department already had deepened its civil rights investigation into the shooting. A day earlier, officials said 40 FBI agents were going door-to-door gathering information in the Ferguson neighborhood where Brown, who was unarmed, was shot to death Aug. 9.

A federally conducted autopsy “more closely focused on entry point of projectiles, defensive wounds and bruises” might help that investigation, said David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who supervised the criminal civil rights section of Miami’s U.S. attorney’s office. The move is “not that unusual,” he added.

Federal authorities also want to calm any public fears that no action will be taken on the case, Weinstein said.

Back in Ferguson, Sunday’s clashes erupted three hours before the midnight curfew imposed by Gov. Jay Nixon.

Officers in riot gear ordered all the protesters to disperse. Many of the marchers retreated, but a group of about 100 stood defiantly about two blocks away until getting hit by another volley of tear gas.

Protesters laid a line of cinder blocks across the street near the QuikTrip convenience store that was burned down last week. It was an apparent attempt to block police vehicles, but the vehicles easily plowed through. Someone set a nearby trash bin on fire, and the crackle of gunfire could be heard from several blocks away.

Within two hours, most people had been cleared off West Florissant Avenue, one of the community’s main thoroughfares. The streets remained quiet as the curfew began. It was to remain in effect until 5 a.m.

Earlier in the day, Johnson said he had met members of Brown’s family and the experience “brought tears to my eyes and shame to my heart.”

“When this is over,” he told the crowd, “I’m going to go in my son’s room. My black son, who wears his pants sagging, who wears his hat cocked to the side, got tattoos on his arms, but that’s my baby.”

Johnson added: “We all need to thank the Browns for Michael. Because Michael’s going to make it better for our sons to be better black men.”

The protests have been going on since Brown’s death heightened racial tensions between the predominantly black community and the mostly white Ferguson Police Department, leading to several run-ins between police and protesters and prompting Missouri’s governor to put the state highway patrol in charge of security.

Ferguson police waited six days to publicly reveal the name of the officer and documents alleging Brown robbed a convenience store shortly before he was killed. Police Chief Thomas Jackson said the officer did not know Brown was a robbery suspect when he encountered him walking in the street with a friend.

Nixon said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that he was not aware the police were going to release surveillance video from the store where Brown is alleged to have stolen a $49 box of cigars.

“It’s appeared to cast aspersions on a young man that was gunned down in the street. It made emotions raw,” Nixon said.

Police have said little about the encounter between Brown and the officer, except to say that it involved a scuffle in which the officer was injured and Brown was shot. Witnesses say the teenager had his hands in the air as the officer fired multiple rounds.

The officer who shot Brown has been identified as Darren Wilson, a six-year police veteran who had no previous complaints against him. Wilson has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting, and the department has refused to say anything about his whereabouts. Associated Press reporters have been unable to contact him at any addresses or phone numbers listed under that name in the St. Louis area.

Also Sunday, about 150 people gathered in St. Louis to show support for Wilson. The crowd protested outside a TV station because it had broadcast from in front of the officer’s home.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the station, KSDK, later apologized. Other in the group, composed mostly of police and relatives of officers, carried signs urging people to wait for all the facts.

___

Associated Press writers Darlene Superville in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and Eric Tucker in Brewster, Massachusetts, contributed to this report.

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