FERGUSON, Mo. – The National Guard has rolled in, but the pain and passion of people in the streets, in homes and in businesses remain and broken hearts still ache.
Tear gas, rubber bullets, gas masks, gas canisters and armored trucks have been deployed at night along Florissant Avenue, where demonstrators marched, sang, grieved, clapped, hugged and cried.
There was a new order before and after sundown Aug. 18, the day the Guard arrived, though security was still overseen by the state highway patrol. The new tactic was to keep everyone moving on the sidewalks and no cars were allowed to drive down the street.
“Hands up! Don’t shoot!” was the cry of crowds, parents and children. “No justice, no peace!” shouted demonstrators expressing anger and anguish over the killing of a Black teenager, a heavy-handed police response, and what many saw as agitation by law enforcement. They walked up and down streets in a designated protest area. No one was allowed to stand still.
Protesters fill Florissant Road in downtown Ferguson, Mo. Aug. 11, marching along the closed street. Photos: AP/Wide World photos
By about 10 p.m., a White man with a gray ponytail, who was part of a group wearing shirts with slogans about revolution tried to rally people in the middle of the street. “We have the right to protest!” he shouted. “You can’t tell us how to protest!” The group was about four or five people and police put on gas masks. Then armored vehicles started to move forward, blocking the street, telling people to get out of the street.
Rev. Al Sharpton, left, speaks with parents of Michael Brown, Michael Brown Sr. and Lesley McSpadden, right, during a rally at Greater Grace Church, Aug. 17, for their son who was killed by police last Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Sharpton told the rally Brown’s death was a “defi ning moment for this country.”
Black activists, led by Anthony Shaheed, who had been working night after night to avoid violence, moved to defuse the situation as the crowd surged toward police officers. The men ejected the troublemakers. “They came into your community like infiltrators, trying to rally our people to stand up against these heavily armed people. They were trying to get our babies killed. They saw a situation and tried to take advantage of our community. We had women out here.”
“We stopped it, we told them you go somewhere else and do that,” continued the longtime St. Louis activist and advisor to the family of Michael Brown, an unarmed youth gunned down by a Darren Wilson, a White officer with the Ferguson Police Dept.
The instigators wanted to exploit hurting Black youth, who saw the killing of Michael Brown as the last straw, seeing his body in the street, and the police put dogs on us after gunning the 18-year-old down, said Mr. Shaheed. “You don’t think we are sensitive to our own suffering?” he asked.
The young people need jobs, training, trades and warrants cleared, you would not have problems if you solved these things, said Mr. Shaheed. “I am not denouncing this young Black man, my job is to get in the street and help him. If they had not did what they did the world’s attention would not be here.”
Malik Shabazz of Black Lawyers for Justice yelled at the protestors to back away from police officers through a bullhorn. Black clergymen, in collars and without, waded into the crowd; they formed a line between the crowd and the officers. A young pastor who was part of the Peacekeepers group worked to quash the conflict.
Activist Zaki Baruti of the St. Louis-based Universal African Peoples Organization also walked the streets just before the clash.
Former New York City chief medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden, right, speaks as Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump, left, holds a diagram produced during a second autopsy done on 18-year old Michael Brown, Aug. 18, in St. Louis County, Mo. The independent autopsy shows Brown was shot at least six times. Photos: AP/Wide World photos
Protestors young and old, male and female, Black and sometimes White, said the few late night looting incidents and confrontations with police were the exception not the rule of conduct for demonstrators.
“There is nothing going on that merits this scene out of Bragam,” said CNN reporter Jake Tapper, referring to the war in Iraq. “This doesn’t make any sense.” He had cameras pan to show how far away protestors were from heavily armed police. The police are not facing a threat, he said.
The crowd applauded and raised their arms shouting, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” as the tension faded and officers retreated to their vehicles.
“We are not going to allow infiltrators to destroy this movement,” said Mr. Shabazz. “We’re not going to see women get hurt. I am not going to see this end in a disaster tonight.” They are plants who are not with us, he said. “We need more men to step up and keep the peace. These kids will listen to us,” Mr. Shabazz said during a live interview with CNN. These infiltrators have been out here every night trying to incite people against the police and destroy this movement, he said.