News / USA

On the Scene: In Missouri, Ferguson Community Leaders Calm Tensions

  • Civilian peacekeepers join hands to separate demonstrators protesting against the shooting of Michael Brown away from the police in Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 19, 2014.
  • A Missouri State Trooper talks with protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, early Aug. 20, 2014.
  • Demonstrators protesting the shooting death of Michael Brown rest on a car while holding a sign in Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 19, 2014.
  • Demonstrators protesting against the shooting of Michael Brown are surrounded by police in riot gear in Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 19, 2014.
  • Police arrest a man as they disperse a protest in Ferguson, Missouri, early Aug. 20, 2014.
  • Police try to disperse a crowd in Ferguson, Missouri, early Aug. 20, 2014.
  • People are moved by a line of police as authorities disperse a protest in Ferguson, Missouri, early Aug. 20, 2014.
  • Security forces detain a demonstrator during a protest against the shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 20, 2014.
  • A man is doused with milk and sprayed with mist after being hit by an eye irritant from security forces trying to disperse demonstrators protesting against the shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 20, 2014.
  • Protesters hold roses as they march in Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 19, 2014.
Ferguson, Missouri - Wednesday, August 20
Mary Alice Salinas

After nearly a week of violent nightly protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the shooting death of an unarmed black teen, demonstrators and police may have reached a turning point late Tuesday.

Protesters were holding mostly peaceful rallies throughout the day Tuesday, but they became increasingly agitated throughout the night.

I’ve covered protests and riots before, and I saw that something was about to happen.

And then a group of religious and community leaders emerged from the crowd. One man urged the protesters to move to a different location, a church or some other site.

“We have a place where we can talk. We have a place where we can hear your concerns. We can address all your issues. People there will listen to you. Follow me, follow me," the man said.

A huge part of the crowd, the residents of Ferguson, went with the religious leaders. They were angry, but they followed.

Developments in Ferguson, Missouri

  • U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder arrived in Ferguson, Missouri, to meet with community leaders, FBI investigators and federal civil rights officials on Wednesday to discuss the progress of a separate civil rights investigation into the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

  • A grand jury investigating the shooting is expected to begin hearing evidence on the case. The officer who shot Brown, Darren Wilson, is on paid leave and in seclusion, with Brown's family and supporters calling for his arrest.

  • The 11th night of protests was relatively calm until just before midnight, as police in riot gear ordered lingering demonstrators to disperse, then charged into the crowd to make arrests. Police later said they took 47 people into custody and seized several loaded firearms, but no gunshots were fired.

  • There was no shooting from either side, no tear gas or smoke bombs fired by police, and no Molotov cocktails from protesters, though police doused some demonstrators with pepper spray during clashes that erupted at the end of the night.

Source: Reuters

It was a beautiful thing to see. A lot of the crowd dispersed. Things immediately got calmer.

As I was talking to police, they mentioned how this night was different. They were smiling. They said it was the best night since the protests started.

One of the community organizers stopped by and the police thanked him for his efforts. The organizer replied, “I’m just trying to help the kids.”

How it started

The events in Ferguson began on Aug. 9, when Michael Brown, 18, was shot to death by local police officer Darren Wilson, 28.

Since then, the town has been rocked by violent protests, and images of a heavily militarized police force have shocked the nation and drawn international interest.

The law enforcement presence in Ferguson is amazing.

Officers wear riot gear and carry batons and high-powered weapons. They have armored vehicles and Humvees. Helicopters are flying overhead.

Most of the police presence is found in the "ground zero" area – where most of the protest action happens – on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson. This area is also about four or five blocks from where Brown was killed.

The police are severely limiting access to the area. All major streets around this area are blocked off. Getting to the area was very difficult even for the media.

On West Florissant, police now require that you keep moving. They won’t allow anyone to be stationary. Even during the day, you have to keep moving.

It’s a strange thing to see, I must say, in a U.S. town even we, the media, are not allowed to stop and talk. We have to keep moving up and down the street.

I was astounded by how limited our movement was and I had to ask, How legal is this?

I spoke with Amnesty International and they said they already have seen what are clear violations of people’s rights of freedom of speech, freedom of association. They said they will continue to monitor the situation.

The Missouri National Guard, which the governor deployed to help handle the unrest, has a very limited role. They are guarding the police command post in a nearby shopping center parking lot.

'Ground zero'

Many businesses are boarded up along a mile-long stretch of the street. Some have been looted, others are making repairs after being looted, and still others are open, including the market where Brown allegedly stole a box of cigars.

During the International Monetary Fund protests in D.C. in 2000, there were confrontations in the street. In those protests you saw long lines of police and arrests. But those events didn’t have the same level of fear and tension and anger that you see in Ferguson.

I had never seen this level of tension between protesters and police. But last night I saw a break.

The real heroes here are the religious and community leaders. It is clear that they are an important part of the answer to ending this unrest.

Racial divide

The world has slowly become aware of this case, but the buzz in Ferguson was immediate.

On the local level, residents are asking for justice for Brown’s death.

On the national level, the story is generating questions about how the police are reacting to the protesters.

Brown’s killing has also uncovered what has long been at issue in this country – the divide between black and white America, that there is inequality in not only how African-Americans are treated by law enforcement and how they are treated in the justice system, but in job opportunities, poverty, education and housing – a multitude of issues where they are angry, frustrated and fed up.

Ferguson is a predominantly African-American community, unemployment is higher, a disproportionate number of people are stopped by police.

Protesters see this case as a reflection of a deep and profound issue that is beneath the surface of America – and so that’s why it’s resonating throughout the country and even the world.

This case is seen as the springboard for the discussion on this. People are angry and people are frustrated. They’re calling this a struggle that’s not going to go away until these issues are addressed fully.

And they realize this story won't end when we (the media) all go home.

Message from White House

President Barack Obama has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to go to Ferguson on Wednesday, where he plans to meet with community leaders. That is a huge statement from Washington.

It’s a very important signal from the White House - that protesters’ voices are being heard.

Residents are asking for justice in the death of Brown and for racial issues to be addressed.

And we’re being watched all over the world for our response.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Ed from: Virginia
August 20, 2014 1:02 PM
Was this a news report or a commentary? This is one of the most simplistic pieces of writing I have ever seen from VOA.

"It’s a very important signal from the White House - that protesters’ voices are being heard."

"Residents are asking for justice in the death of Brown and for racial issues to be addressed."

And the final personal observation of the reporter:

"And we’re being watched all over the world for our response."

Nothing new in this for me -- VOA was late getting to Missouri, and gives us this??

I'll be asking for a refund of my tax dollars that went to pay for this poor reporting.


by: Lawrence Bush from: Houston, Texas
August 20, 2014 10:48 AM
Certainly, I was expecting our president and the federal govt. to enter in, alomg with the political as well as the community leaders, to quell the unrest and calm our people at Ferguson after the shooting incident of the black teen. And that does take place now. What'er is the incident, there should be thorough probe for justice. When the people go calm, it's mandatorily necessary to investigate the shooting incident comprehensively as Brown's family does get justice. Along with the governer Nixon, the Missouri police chief does have a lot of responsibilities in the state probe process. And, as the federal Justice Dept. chief Eric Holder himself is reaching Ferguson, our people that're involved in the current unrest after the shooting incident, must have patience and trust in our judicial system in America and await. The very necessity of the Missouri police at present to not only curb the violent unrest but to get justice to the Brown's family and people, not being repressive only to control the unrest just.


by: eLJAY from: USA
August 20, 2014 10:37 AM
WHY ARE THE BLACK PANTHERS WORKING WITH THE DHS TO PROTECT THE ROGUE POLICE??????????????????

VOA?????????????????????????????????????????????????

In Response

by: Matthew George from: New Hope, Minnesota
August 21, 2014 12:51 AM
Really? You such a glown. Just keep damn mouth shut if you have nothing to convey. Brown poses no tret to the arresting officer. How will you feel if a black officer killed your father or mother, without justification? I bet that black officer would've been charge with man slaughtered.


by: meanbill from: USA
August 20, 2014 10:26 AM
WHAT made this police shooting of Brown an (18) year old man, who was a petty thief, bully, and criminal, who refused orders to comply with a police officer, assaulted the officer, resisted arrest, and threatened the police officer leading to his death, different from the thousands of criminals deaths by police under the same conditions?...... (Did you say, the color of Brown's skin, and the color of the police officers skin?).

PS;.. The only difference between this police self-defense killing of Brown, an (18) year old petty thief, bully, and criminal, who refused to obey police orders, assaulted the police officer, attempted to escape, and threatened the police officer causing his own death, (was the color of his skin), that drove those of his skin color wild, and wanting revenge....

PS;.. No matter what the protesters or rioters say, it's the color of Brown's skin, and the police officers skin color that's inflames them, and nothing else.... IF nobody knew what color the skin was of the police or the criminal, would the protesters and rioters, be protesting and rioting?..... or would they act like they normally do, when over 14,400 homicides are committed in America every year?..... (It's a racial thing isn't it?).

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid