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Ferguson Uneasy After Night of Violence

  • VOA News

Ferguson, Missouri, was on edge again Monday night, a day after a protest marking the anniversary of the shooting death of Michael Brown ended with gunshots and the critical wounding of another black teenager.

VOA's Kane Farabaugh, who is in Ferguson, says police have arrested at least two people after a scuffle ensued when protestors tried to take the center of a busy intersection "and police moved in to disperse." He described the situation as "very tense."

During the late afternoon, rush hour protesters blocked an interstate highway, leading to an unspecified number of arrests.

Earlier, St. Louis County officials had declared a state of emergency in the embattled city, after violence erupted on the first anniversary of the shooting death of the unarmed black teenager Brown by a white police officer after a street confrontation.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger declared the emergency after prosecutors filed 10 charges against an 18-year-old suspect accused of shooting at an unmarked police car late Sunday before four officers returned fire and critically wounded him.

"The recent acts of violence will not be tolerated in a community that has worked so tirelessly over the last year to rebuild and become stronger," Stenger said.

His state of emergency allows county Police Chief Jon Belmar to take control of law enforcement in and near Ferguson, although it was not immediately clear what steps police might take to preserve order.

VOA's Kane Farabaugh is on the scene Monday night:


While Ferguson swept up after Sunday’s violence, about 50 people were arrested Monday in front of the courthouse in the nearby city of St. Louis.

At least 150 people had marched peacefully several kilometers from a St. Louis church, demanding federal action to stop unfair policing. They were arrested when they blocked the courthouse’s entrance.

Famous author and academic Cornel West was among those arrested.

Cornel West, center, joins other protesters sitting on the steps of the Thomas F. Eagleton Federal Courthouse as members of the Federal Protective Service stand watch, Aug. 10, 2015, in St. Louis.

Cornel West, center, joins other protesters sitting on the steps of the Thomas F. Eagleton Federal Courthouse as members of the Federal Protective Service stand watch, Aug. 10, 2015, in St. Louis.

Sunday’s Violence

Police Chief Belmar said the wounded suspect, Tyrone Harris Jr., was among six who fired shots during Sunday's protest, which until that point had been a peaceful street demonstration commemorating the year-ago killing of Michael Brown. He was killed during a heated street confrontation with a white police officer who months later was cleared of wrong-doing.

Harris's father, Tyrone Harris Sr., said he believed his son, a friend of Brown's, was unarmed and called the police version of Sunday night's violence "a bunch of lies."

Belmar said detectives had been tracking a man they feared was armed and he was then involved in an exchange of 40 or 50 shots between two groups of people, before shooting the officers' vehicle.

"They were criminals. They were not protesters," Belmar said of the groups that exchanged shots. "Protesters are people that are out there that are talking about a way to effect change, whatever that may be. That is not what is happening here."

Belmar told a news conference that the outbreak of violence was "an impediment to positive change." He said police first increased their presence in that area after reports of looting, and that some people threw bottles that shattered near officers. He also reported one officer was injured by a flying brick Sunday night in Ferguson.

Watch related video report by Arash Arabasadi:


U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch strongly condemned the violence.

"Not only does violence obscure any message of peaceful protest," Lynch said, "it places the community, as well as the officers who seek to protect it, in harm's way."

After the shooting, police ordered people still gathered in the area to leave and used smoke grenades to disperse the crowd. Several of those in the crowd criticized the police on Twitter, saying the smoke was fired after people were already complying.

A woman reacts after shots were fired in a police officer-involved shooting in Ferguson, Aug. 9, 2015.

A woman reacts after shots were fired in a police officer-involved shooting in Ferguson, Aug. 9, 2015.

Earlier Sunday, the situation was peaceful as marchers began at the site where Brown was shot by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014. The demonstrations that followed Brown's killing threw the St. Louis suburb into the national spotlight and sparked calls for better treatment of minorities by police.

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