The tear gas is back.
Ferguson has entered its second week of turmoil after a weekend of violent clashes between protesters and law enforcement. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in Ferguson on Saturday and imposed a midnight curfew. Early on Monday, he called in the Missouri National Guard to help with public security.
The St. Louis suburb of about 21,000 has been gripped by unrest since police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was unarmed, on Aug. 9. Residents have taken to the streets every day since, carrying signs and chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” in protest of the shooting.
The atmosphere in Ferguson had seemed calmer Thursday night, after St. Louis County police were pulled out and the state Highway Patrol was brought in. However, the brief moment of calm dissipated over the weekend. From The New York Times:
On Sunday night, hours before the start of a second day of a mandatory curfew that the governor had ordered, police officers came under assault from gunfire and firebombs and responded with their largest show of force so far.
Using a barrage of tear gas and smoke canisters, and firing rubber bullets and deploying hundreds of officers in riot gear to sweep the streets of protesters, the law-enforcement officials had the situation largely under control by the time the curfew began at midnight.
By Monday morning, three people, including one man who was apparently shot by another protester, had been injured, and seven were arrested and charged with failure to disperse.
The weekend’s outbreak of violence suggests Ferguson has a long week ahead. A private autopsy performed Sunday at the request of Michael Brown’s family found that Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head. But the details of what led to Brown’s death remain unclear, and protesters, civil-rights activists, and the victim’s family will continue to demand answers.
Police presence will likely remain a contentious point. The Missouri National Guard is the fifth law-enforcement body to enter the fray, after local and county police, the state Highway Patrol, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations, which has deployed agents to the scene. Officials had hoped the introduction of the Highway Patrol, led by Capt. Ron Johnson, would alleviate tensions, but that didn’t work.
While daytime brings some reprieve from the violence, night may continue to be punctured by the sound of protesters smashing shop windows and police launching tear-gas canisters through the air. The human-rights organization Amnesty International has sent a 13-person delegation to the city, an action it has never before taken inside the United States, BuzzFeed reports. Expect even more detailed documentation of potentially violent confrontations between protesters and police to come.
Also look for more press conferences by police, who have been criticized for the slow release of information about what happened the day Brown died. Two investigations—one by the county and another by the Justice Department—are underway.
A no-fly zone over Ferguson imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration last week “to provide a safe environment for law enforcement activities” expires Monday at 8 p.m. local time. If the agency chooses not to extend the restrictions, helicopters will be allowed back into Ferguson airspace.
The riots and the police response in Ferguson, a predominantly black neighborhood with a largely white police force, have revived racial tensions in the area that will certainly mount in the second week of unrest. Local and state officials have so far avoided talking about race in press conferences on the shooting, but a question from CNN’s Candy Crowley on Sunday prompted Nixon to address it.
“Across the country, these are deep wounds. When you scratch them again, they hurt, whether it’s in Ferguson, Missouri, or other parts of the country,” the governor said. “We know there’s a long history of challenges in these areas, and our hope is that with the help of the people here, that we can be an example of getting justice and getting peace and using that to move forward.”
Nixon could not say on Sunday how long the curfew, which must be extended on a daily basis, will remain in force in Ferguson, nor how long he thinks the unrest will continue. “This was a horrific shooting,” he said.” “We’re not to justice yet, and there will be moments of energy and angst over the coming days and weeks.”