COMMUNITY ON KNIFE-EDGE Protests and arrests as tensions remain high
MISSOURI: Ferguson was a community on edge again yesterday, a day after a protest marking the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death was punctuated with gunshots and police critically wounded a black 18-year-old accused of opening fire on officers.
Police, protesters and people who live and work in the St Louis suburb were bracing for what nightfall might bring following more violence along West Florissant Ave, the same thoroughfare that was the site of massive protests and rioting after Brown was fatally shot last year in a confrontation with a Ferguson officer.
“Of course I’m worried,” said Sandy Sansevere, a retired healthcare worker who volunteers at the retail store operated by the non-profit group I Love Ferguson, which was formed after Brown’s death, to promote the community. “What scares me are the guns.”
Brown was a black 18-year-old who was killed by a white Ferguson police officer, touching off a national debate over police treatment of minorities and sparked the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
Several hundred people gathered along West Florissant, chanting and holding signs. There were no apparent signs of conflict.
Earlier in the day, the father of the suspect who was shot called the police version of events “a bunch of lies”.
He said two girls who were with his son told him he was unarmed and had been drawn into a dispute involving two groups of young people.
St Louis County Executive Steve Stenger declared a state of emergency, which authorises county Police Chief Jon Belmar to take control.
Protests spilled outside of Ferguson. Almost 60 protesters were arrested yesterday for blocking the entrance to the federal courthouse in downtown St Louis. Authorities planned to release them on a promise to appear later in court.
Protesters later briefly blocked Interstate 70 during the late afternoon rush hour, with an additional undetermined number of arrests made. Among those arrested at the courthouse was scholar and civil rights activist Cornel West.