The local authorities have tried everything: aggressive police, appeasing highway patrol, curfew, no curfew, and last night, the national guard. Nothing seems to work. Because what until 9 pm was a peaceful protest, it quickly, as documented here extensively, spiraled out of control. And as the crowd advanced, police fired stun grenades and tear gas at protesters. This escalation allegedly happened after, as Reuters reports, the police came under heavy gunfire leading to the arrest of 31 people, including a famous Getty photographer and yet another journalist.
State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, briefing reporters on Monday's night's violence, said "our officers came under heavy gunfire" in one area.
The good news: an all out bloodbath was avoided: "Not a single bullet was fired by officers despite coming under heavy attack," he told a news conference. Riot police had confiscated two guns from protesters and what looked like a petrol bomb. Four officers had been injured. Others too:
Johnson separately told CNN that two people were shot within the crowd, but not by police, and were taken to hospital. There was no immediate word on their condition.
The violence has captured headlines around the world, raising questions about the state of U.S. race relations nearly six years after Americans elected their first black president.
"This has to stop. I don't want anybody to get hurt. We have to find a way to stop this," said Johnson, an African-American who grew up in the area and who took over security efforts after the mostly white local force was accused of using excessive force against blacks.
Unfortunately for the president who took some time off from his well-deserved 2-week vacation, his racial fire and brimstone speech, which took jabs at both the police and protesters, had zero impact on the local population. "While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving in to that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police, only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos," Obama told a news conference on Monday. "It undermines, rather than advancing, justice."
What's more troubling is that the Ferguson protest movement is beginning to spread to other cities. For now, it is peaceful.
There have been largely peaceful protests over Brown's killing elsewhere in the United States including in St. Louis, New York, Seattle and Oakland. Police commander Johnson said some of those arrested had come from California and New York.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in Ferguson on Saturday and a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. He also mobilized the National Guard to back up state police.
Obama said he told the governor the use of the National Guard should be limited and called for conciliation in communities hit by the unrest.
And if the one man paragon of true justice, US attorney general Eric Holder, who is arriving in Ferguson on Wednesday, and is also taking time away from his busy schedule of arresting countless bankers for crimes conducted during the financial crisis and after, can't put the looting genie in the bottle, then all bets are off.
Finally, what is worst of all, is that in its scramble to put away any potentially threatening element, the local polica arrested not only Getty's famous photographer Scott Olson...
But also Intercept reporter, Ryan Deveraux, who too was apprehended while covering the riots. Below is the editorial published hours ago by Intercept Editor-in-Chief, John Cook:
Intercept Reporter Detained While Covering Ferguson Protests
Intercept reporter Ryan Devereaux was detained this morning while on the ground covering the protests in Ferguson, Mo. According to St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer David Carson, who witnessed the apprehension, Ryan and a German reporter he was with were both taken into custody by members of a police tactical team. They were handcuffed and placed in a wagon, and Carson was told they were being taken to St. Louis County jail.
We haven’t been able to reach officials with the St. Louis County Police Department or Ferguson Police Department to find out if Ryan has been arrested or charged, or under what pretext he was detained. But needless to say, it’s an outrage that he was stopped and handcuffed by police in the course of lawfully doing his job on the streets of Ferguson. We are trying to contact Ryan now.
At a press conference early this morning, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson told reporters in Ferguson that 31 arrests had been made, including members of the “criminal element” from “as far away as New York.” When asked by a reporter if any of those 31 had been reporters, he immediately–and falsely–replied, “these people were not journalists that were arrested.”
But he quickly admitted that in the “chaos” of the protests, officers may not be able to distinguish between reporters and other bystanders: “So yes, we may take some of you into custody. But when we do take you into custody, and we have found out that you are a journalist, we have taken the proper action.” This begs the question as to why police would be compelled to arrest an otherwise law-abiding non-journalist simply for attending a protest. But we insist that the St. Louis County Police Department, Ferguson Police Department, and Missouri Highway Patrol take the proper action and release Ryan Devereaux immediately.