On Friday night and into Saturday morning, Ferguson residents protesting the death of 18-year-old Mike Brown again faced off with the cops. Though the departure of the St. Louis County police and the arrival of the Missouri Highway Patrol resulted in almost friendly-looking demonstrations on Thursday night, tensions escalated after the Friday announcement of the name of the cop who killed Brown — Darren Wilson — and the release of surveillance footage that appeared to show Brown stealing a box of Swisher Sweets cigars just before he was shot. The Ferguson Police Department’s decision to reveal that Brown had been involved in a crime was widely interpreted as an effort to smear the dead teenager, especially since chief Thomas Jackson later said that Wilson hadn’t been aware that Brown was suspected of theft when he stopped him.
Last night’s protests began peacefully. But, the New York Times reports, things started to go downhill a little after midnight, when “the police released a small amount of tear gas as they backed away from the crowd.” From the Times:
Some protesters threw rocks and other objects, according to media reports. Some demonstrators fired weapons into the air.
Captain Johnson told The Associated Press that the police backed off to try to ease the tension. “We had to evaluate the security of the officers there and also the rioters,” he told The A.P.“We just felt it was better to move back.”
Using people and vehicles, protesters quickly blocked a major thoroughfare here, prompting the police to return and form a barricade of their own. For a time, the protesters and the police faced off in the road. The police urged protesters to go home, and demonstrators, many of them chanting slogans like “We ready for y’all,” approached the officers. Some tossed glass bottles toward the police.
Meanwhile, some people began breaking into nearby shops. But, according to reporters on the scene, other protesters managed to stop and prevent the looting by setting up camp outside the threatened businesses.