FERGUSON, MISSOURI —
Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Wednesday to the small community of just over 20,000 people.
Violent protests overshadow peaceful demonstrations in Ferguson as it tries to recover from days of rioting, looting and vandalism.
Hundreds volunteered to help to clean up the devastated neighborhood after nightly protests.
“You got people in here that have nothing to do with this and they’re tearing up stuff,” said one of the people cleaning up.
Nearby sits a makeshift memorial for Michael Brown, the unarmed African American teenager shot and killed on August 9 by a white police officer.
It’s a case that many believe has become a flashpoint for a deep, unresolved issue in America.
“There is still a significant division of white America and black America. And my belief is that until there is true interaction, that we are never going to fully resolve the problem,” said Bishop Edwin Bass, one of several religious leaders that have spoken with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation’s top law enforcement officer.
The FBI is investigating possible civil rights violations, and local and state police are conducting their own probe.
The vast majority of residents, like Erma Dupree, condemn violence, but demand justice.
“That’s something that we are determined to take back, power and authority. And it’s not just against the police officers. It’s the political people as well. We feel injustice that way,” said Dupree.
Amnesty International has accused police of violating the rights of peaceful demonstrators, something they deny.
State Highway Patrol Captain Ronald Johnson says they must protect demonstrators against a small group responsible for the violence.
“We saw the criminal element masking themselves behind good people, putting good people at risk, daring us to address them. Our freedom of speech is one of the greatest things we have. We have no intentions of trying to take that away,” said Johnson.
Bass said a Justice Department probe into Brown’s death is critical.
“If the appropriate decision is understood and made, it will bring peace to this community. If the community feels there’s a sense that it is not being treated justly, unfortunately there will continue to be unrest,” said Bass.
Bass said that in the meantime, he and other leaders will keep working to lower the level of anger here.