What Will Happen in Ferguson This Week?

Missouri has called the National Guard to the St. Louis suburb after a weekend of violent clashes between protesters and police.

Demonstrators raise their arms during a protest against the killing of Michael Brown on Aug. 17 in Ferguson, Mo.
National Journal
Aug. 18, 2014, 6:52 a.m.

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.”