For the fifth night in a row, the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, were aflame on Wednesday night as angry citizens battled police over frustrations about the shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown.
Citing safety risks, officials have declined to name the officer who fired the deadly barrage of bullets that killed the 18-year-old or offer details about events leading up to the shooting. Against that backdrop, protesters took to the streets again and faced off against officers in tactical gear who were armed with what was described as "high-caliber automatic weapons" briefly aimed at the crowd.
Despite requests from police to disperse before sundown, CNN reported that photographers captured images of young men lighting Molotov cocktails as well as crowd-control stun grenades that had been detonated in the street. At one point during the night, police used sonic cannons and fired tear gas canisters at a crowd huddled around a gas station that has become a nightly gathering point for the protests. With guns raised, the officers reportedly warned the protesters to turn back, marching slowly in riot gear toward the gas station and ordering the crowd, and some reporters, to turn off their cameras.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon was slated to visit the area on Thursday and pleaded with community members to be patient and calm as the investigation unfolds, while urging law enforcement to "keep the peace and respect the rights of residents and the press." With peaceful gathering turning violent at night, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill tweeted that she is working hard to calm the situation and de-escalate the tensions in the streets.
Two reporters covering the unrest were detained earlier in the day at a McDonald's after reportedly failing to meet a police officer's deadline for them to pack up and move along; they were later released without being charged. Police made 18 arrests on Wednesday, August 11, including the two reporters. They also detained St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who has been posting video of the protests to his social media accounts, pulling him from his car after he reportedly disobeyed orders to disperse; he was released on Thursday morning.
So far, 65 people have been arrested since the protests began on Saturday, August 9, the same day Brown was fatally shot.
The officer who shot Brown was reportedly hit during the altercation with the teen and suffered swelling on the side of his face. He was taken to a hospital and released on the same day and officials have said they are not releasing his name for fear of his safety. CNN also reported that federal civil rights investigators and the FBI are carrying out independent inquiries into the case in the town of 21,000 with a history of distrust between the predominantly black community and mostly white police force.
Witnesses Contradict Police Version Of Events
Two eyewitnesses told CNN that Brown did seem to wrestle with the officer before being shot dead, but that he did not enter the police cruiser or try to grab the cop's weapon, as authorities have claimed. Both said that they saw Brown in a grapple with the officer before he tried to run away, at which point the officer opened fire and shot him, continuing to shoot at the teen even after he raised his hands in the air.
The key witness in the case, Dorian Johnson, 22 -- Brown's friend who was with him at the time of the shooting -- met with authorities on Wednesday to give them his account of the incident, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
A vigil and National Moment of Silence are planned in downtown St. Louis on Thursday night (August 14) to commemorate Brown and other victims of police-involved shootings.
Chances are you want to learn more, or take action on what is happening in Ferguson, so we’ve put together some ideas for you.
+ What is happening in Ferguson has drummed up a lot of talk about racial bias. If you have an idea for a digital tool that would help you and your friends have productive conversations about bias, you should take part in Look Different’s Challenge. There’s $10k prize at stake!
+ Get educated and check out Look Different’s Implicit Bias Quiz. It’s important to know exactly why we are talking about Ferguson, and that might mean examining our own hidden biases.
+ Take the conversation offline. Talk with your friends about their feelings about what is happening in Ferguson, and the shooting of Mike Brown. Use this as an opportunity to connect and learn from each other.