Ferguson protests turn to riots
Police in Ferguson, Missoui called a late night press conference Sunday night to inform media about a day of peaceful pretesting that turned violent as day turned to night. As many as three persons, all male, have been shot, two, it appears, in a drive-by shooting and one by police after allegedly firing on police.
The man shot by police is in critical condition. His name is Tyrone Harris Jr. and at about 3 a.m. his father, Tyrone Harris Sr., told media his son had made it out of surgery but it was unclear if his life was in danger. Police say Harris Jr. fired on a van with undercover officers in it and then ran. Soon after he was in an area surronded by fencing and he turned and fired at the four officers in pursuit. They all fired and struck Harris Jr.
Demonstrations and protests were organized to mark the one year anniversary of the shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson. Hundreds were in the street Sunday where Brown was shot, on Florissant Avenue, and they marked the time of his death, 12:02 p.m. with silence. At the end of their ceremony they released two white doves into the air.
There was a strong police presence there at the time but they stayed away from the demonstrators and there were no clashes. However, hours later as night began to fall, groups of people began smashing store windows and blocking traffic, similar to events which took place last year in the weeks and months following Brown’s death. The St. Louis County chief of police, Jon Belmar, said they were not protesters but “criminals” who began engaging in such activities.
“There is a small group of people out there that are intent on making sure that peace doesn’t prevail,” Belmar said. “There are a lot of emotions. I get it. But we can’t sustain this as we move forward.”
Police in riot gear responded and tried to disperse the crowd and protect the businesses. As the Ferguson police chief, Andre Anderson, was being interviewed on TV shots rang out and police, protesters and media ducked for cover. Anderson told media as the violence grew that the situation may require the use of force.
“We’ve allowed people to protest, we’ve also allowed people in the vicinity to be given plenty of egress so that they can leave,” he said. “We’ve given over 15 orders that they need to disperse. At some point, some of these folks are going to have to get off the roadway and we’re going to have to take some enforcement action.”
Two shot during protests
At the news conference, police said one of their officers was involved in a shooting after he came under “heavy fire.” It’s unclear if that was the incident in which the two persons were shot or the one in which Harris Jr. was shot. A body was seen lying on Florissant Avenue and a young woman was heard to be screaming that her brother had been shot. An AP reporter overheard a young man say “They killed my brother.”
No deaths, however, were reported on the night.
It is not known if the person lying in the street was the one struck by police bullets, or struck by the initial shots that rang out, shots that appeared to come from somewhere amongst the protestors, reports say. Police say that rival groups were responsible for the fulislade of shots that rang out during the interview, saying the shooters were firing at one another due to a feud that had developed between them. Police said a “remarkable” amount of shots were fired by the rival groups.
Early in the morning shop owners stood guard over their stores. Multiple stores were broken into and robbed.