Violence has broken out again as authorities dressed in riot gear in a St. Louis, Missouri suburb – where an unarmed black teen was fatally shot by police over the weekend – have used tear gas and rubber bullets to try to disperse a large crowd.
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told the Associated Press that a group gathered throughout the day on Monday at a burned-out convenience store, then turned rowdy at nightfall. Along with tear gas, observers tweeted that police fired rubber bullets into the crowd.
Police were telling people to go home, but had blocked streets off in the area, an AP photographer said. Jackson said police closed the area where most of the looting and vandalism occurred during the previous night, out of concern that cars passing by might hit demonstrators in the street.
— Anastasia Churkina (@NastiaChurkina) August 12, 2014
The St. Louis suburb has been marred by unrest for three days, moving from protests and vigils during the day to rioting and looting at night. The tumult is over the death of Michael Brown, a black teenager who was killed on Saturday following an altercation with a Ferguson police officer.
Brown had his hands raised when the police officer approached with his weapon drawn and fired repeatedly, according to two individuals who said they witnessed the shooting that triggered two nights of violence in suburban St. Louis.
The 18-year-old was to begin his first day of college on Monday.
— Anastasia Churkina (@NastiaChurkina) August 12, 2014
— PzFeed Top News (@PzFeed) August 12, 2014
RT's Anastasia Churkina was at the scene of the protests.
"We witnessed tear gas being fired at just a couple dozen
people...who live in this neighborhood. The police had issued
several warnings that they would fire tear gas and they in fact
proceeded to do this," Churkina reported.
"We do not expect these tensions to die down because the local we've spoken to most certainly intend to continue coming out to protest."
According to Churkina, many of the details (of the shooting of Michael Brown) remain a mystery, including the identity of the police officer who remains on paid leave. "This is something the local community wants to change. They want to see accountability...over police brutality."
Although authorities are still investigating the incident, St. Louis Police Chief Jon Belmar said a struggle between Brown and a police officer somehow ensued inside a police cruiser. It was unclear whether Brown or the man he was with was involved in the altercation.
"It is our understanding at this point in the investigation, that within the police car, there was a struggle over the officer's weapon," Belmar told a news conference on Sunday.
— djvjgrrl (@djvjgrrl) August 12, 2014
Police cruisers in Ferguson, a town of some 23,000 people, are not equipped with dash cameras, which would have proven valuable to investigators. There are also no surveillance cameras at the apartment complex where the incident occurred.
Riot police point a gun into a yard pic.twitter.com/BIl5cTOLGJ
— FOX2now (@FOX2now) August 12, 2014
Police officials have been vague about what led the officer to open fire on Brown, and have not said why the victim was reportedly shot eight times in the course of the altercation.
About 60 people gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department on Monday, calling for authorities to identify the officer involved and charge him with murder, St. Louis Public Radio reported.
At least 5 gunshots heard from #Ferguson neighborhood. People trapped here scatter and take cover. "Where are we supposed to hide?" one says
— Julie Bosman (@juliebosman) August 12, 2014
A total of 32 people were arrested during the violence on Sunday night, The New York Times reported, as questions of race and simmering tensions between Ferguson’s residents and police boiled over into rioting. Residents have complained of too many incidences where the police use racial profiling when confronting individuals on the street. Patrice McHaskell, who lives near the looted area, said that officers frequently stop young black men for trivial things like walking in the middle of the street, as witnesses said Brown was doing.
“You have to begin with the frustration,” Wayne Bledsoe of St. Louis, who attended the protest, told the Times. “Treatment of these communities is not equal. In white communities, the police truly protect and serve. In black communities, that is not the case. And now another mother has lost her son.”
— James MN Harris (@JamesMNHarris) August 12, 2014
The shooting has brought to the surface lingering tensions between “black residents of North County and a predominantly white Ferguson police force,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Officials have not disclosed the race of the police officer who killed Michael Brown.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay tweeted Sunday that he stands with County Executive Charlie Dooley in his call "for a full and open inquiry into yesterday's shooting in Ferguson."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation opened a civil rights inquiry into the incident on Monday, the Times reported. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement that the shooting “deserves a fulsome review.”
“Aggressively pursuing investigations such as this is critical for preserving trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” Holder added.
Belmar asked the public for patience during a Monday press conference.
“I understand that the public has a right to be skeptical, and I appreciate that and I would expect that the public be skeptical oftentimes of government or some forms of it,” he said. “But I would also ask the public to be reasonable, because it takes a long time to make sure we do this investigation the right way.”
Brown’s parents told reporters that their son was non-violent and would have objected to the looting.
The family’s lawyer asked witnesses to step forward with testimony and videotape.
“If any of you have information, please give it to us,” Brown’s father, Michael Brown, said. “We don’t want no violence.”
“Because Michael wouldn’t want no violence,” Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, said through tears.
Brown’s family has hired Benjamin Crump, the lawyer who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a mixed-race Hispanic who served as a community watch volunteer in 2012.