Ferguson Protests Turn Calm After Days of Riots, Looting – Businessweek
Ferguson, Missouri, the St. Louis suburb hit by rioting in recent days, was peaceful as demonstrators protested the killing of Michael Brown, the unarmed black 18-year-old shot by a police officer.
Police made only two arrests, and no officers were injured or cruisers damaged, according to a news release this morning.
Last night, customers filled tables at Marley’s Bar and Grill on South Florissant Road, less than a five-minute walk from the Ferguson Police Department. While business was slow compared to a normal Thanksgiving eve, the bar, which stayed open through the protests, had its busiest night in three weeks, said owner Kelly Braun.
“Right outside the door, there are however many police officers and National Guard, but in here right now, we feel like it’s a normal night,” said Braun, 48, who is white. “We need to feel happy about a holiday.”
Yesterday marked the third day of demonstrations since a grand jury decided against charging Officer Darren Wilson over Brown’s Aug. 9 shooting in Ferguson. That night, the city of 21,000 erupted in looting and arson. There were disruptions in U.S. cities including New York, Houston, Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas and Oakland, California, where crowds vandalized businesses and blocked two interstates.
New York City police today arrested about six protesters attempting to disrupt the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade about 9:20 a.m., said Sergeant Lee Jones, a spokesman.
Yesterday evening, about 40 people gathered across the street from the Ferguson Police Department to protest the killing and the grand jury’s decision. They were outnumbered by about 50 National Guard troops clad in camouflage riot gear standing in front of two Humvees. The protesters held signs and spoke among themselves, a departure from the chanting and ruckus of past demonstrations.
“The difference in safety today is because we have a lot more troops on the ground,” said Ferguson’s white mayor, James Knowles III, who was visiting Marley’s. “Where do we go from here? The question remains: Can we resolve the issues with all the unrest and start the healing process? The decision not to indict has set back those conversations.”
Lesley McSpadden, Brown’s mother, said yesterday in an interview in New York, that the fight should be metaphorical, not physical.
“What we’ve been preaching from the beginning: peaceful, positive,” she said. “Stay calm. Think with a rational mind. We don’t want anybody else getting hurt. Losing my son was enough for me. It was actually too much.”
Not all protests are taking place on the streets. An Internet site, BlackoutForHumanRights.com, is encouraging Americans not to spend money on Nov. 28, the post-Thanksgiving Day kickoff to the Christmas retail rush. Blackout was founded in September and Bay Area movie director Ryan Coogler is among its members. His film “Fruitvale Station” won a 2013 Sundance Film Festival award for its depiction of a young black victim of a police shooting.
“When you spend money as if everything is business as usual, you give off the impression that nothing is wrong,” Coogler said in a telephone interview. “Young people are dying at the hands of public servants. Things obviously aren’t OK.”
Freedom to Assemble
In Missouri yesterday, a protest by several hundred people at City Hall began peacefully. There were stops for a mock trial on the steps of the old St. Louis Courthouse and a few moments to hold hands at an intersection. Chanting and waving signs, they passed National Guard troops standing alongside a Humvee outside the civil courts building.
When they reached City Hall, some demanded to go inside. An officer shouted to the crowd that their gathering was an unlawful assembly and they would have to leave. One man was chased and tackled by three officers, then arrested. A line of officers in riot gear advanced and the protesters scattered, only to follow a police car, its lights flashing, back to the plaza where the march had begun. The crowd then trickled away.
“We’ve been peaceful and the police are still treating us like criminals,” said Jeanina Jenkins, 21. “This is America. You aren’t supposed to be able to treat people like this in America.”
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