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DAY SIX, NIGHT: Protesters gather, police deploy in Ferguson

DAY SIX, NIGHT: Protesters gather, police deploy in Ferguson

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UPDATED at 1:30 a.m. with scene on street.

FERGUSON •  Police fired smoke grenades and moved toward a small group of defiant protesters who had gathered in the otherwise empty West Florissant Avenue after the midnight curfew went into effect. Other police officers, many in helmets and body armor, stood guard in front of neighborhood businesses.

The tactics appeared to have scattered the holdouts. TV footage appeared to show at least two people being arrested.

Rain stopped before the first smoke was fired 45 minutes after the curfew began midnight. Observers thought the officers had fired tear gas, but a police spokesman said the grenades were smoke, not tear gas.

After 1 a.m., rain began pouring again as it appeared police had dispersed the protesters. Anthony Ellis, one of the "peacekeeper" volunteers on the scene, said one protester was shot and wounded by another protesters as the police moved in. His report could not be confirmed, and police officials had made no statements at of 1:25 a.m.

St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who has been at the demonstrations all week, spoke with reporters about 1:30 a.m. French said he believed the police had fired tear gas, but he also said the police tactics "were a lot better" than they could have been.

French said he was among political and religious leaders who spoke to the defiant group, urging its members to honor the curfew, "But there was no convincing them."

All through the evening, there was concern that many protesters would ignore the curfew, which was imposed by Gov. Jay Nixon after looters raided businesses in the early hours of Saturday. Protesters marched up and down the main street earlier Saturday evening, but the crowd began thinning after 11 p.m. -- and the police presence grew.

Heavy rain boomed across the area shortly before midnight. It had rained off and on through the evening, but the midnight storms almost seemed providential. Police lights flashed across the wet pavement. Officers, already soaked, stood in their places.

A holdout group of protesters stood in West Florissant near near Canfield Drive, the entrance to the apartment complex where Michael Brown, 18, was shot to death by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. No immediate police action was evident.

-----

With less than one-half hour to go before the midnight curfew in Ferguson, the crowd appears to be getting smaller and more police officers are arriving. The remaining protesters also appears to be younger, on average.

Squad cars of the St. Louis County Police and the nearby municipalities of Hillsdale and Velda City were seen driving up along the fringes of the main protest area along West Florissant Avenue.

Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who was assigned by Gov. Jay Nixon to supervisor street control, had a brief exchange with a masked protester that was chronicled by numerous journalists. It took place near the Ferguson Market and Liquor, 9101 West Florissant, which was ransacked by looters early Saturday.

It also was where Michael Brown, 18, who was shot to death by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson at midday Aug. 9, was seen in a store-security video stealing cigars and shoving an employee shortly before he was killed.

Jason Ross, a tall protester, removed his mask as he approached Johnson and saluted the trooper. In response to something Ross said, Johnson answered, “We'll get some answers.”

Ross said, “Why don't you incarcerate the man who did it?” Said Johnson, “I don't have that authority.” Jason said back, “If that was me who committed murder, I'd be locked up,” then he walked away.

A St. Louis County Circuit Court grand jury is investigating the case.

-- Jeremy Kohler 

Shortly before 10 p.m. – two hours before the curfew – protesters mainly milled about, sometimes chanting slogans. Drivers honked their horns as they drove slowly down West Florissant Avenue.

Whether the curfew will be honored was a matter of speculation and concern.

Patricia Bynes, Democratic committewoman for Ferguson Township, said she feared that many people gathered there Saturday night will ignore the curfew.

“There are a lot of faces I've never seen before that are here just because of the curfew,” said Bynes.

Kandy Collard, 41, of Gerson, said he won't leave at midnight. "Hell, no, we are grown up," Collard said. "As long as we are not being violent, you can't tell me to leave."

Jeremy Galloway, 41 of Baden, he and two friends been going around the crowd, urging people go to home, telling them, "There is a tomorrow."

Craig Carter, 38, of Normandy, at the protest for the first time, said he will honor the curfew. "I don't want to be part of all that," Carter said of defiance. "I'm here for the right reasons."

Billy Moreno, who traveled here from Austin, Texas, said, "I'll stay as long as people are here even if it is after the curfew. I'll only leave if it gets violent."

-- Jeremy Kohler and Nicholas Pistor

By about 6 p.m., protesters had begun gathering in large numbers again outside the burned QuikTrip in Ferguson. About 500 people, their arms up and chanting, moved south on West Florissant Avenue. Shortly before they reached Ferguson Avenue, about 50 St. Louis city police officers stepped out of a Metro bus.

Many of the marchers turned back north. The officers, most of them in regular uniforms, didn't follow them, but instead lined to stand guard at local businesses.

Other officers, including Missouri Highway Patrol troopers in regular uniforms, stood in small groups along West Florissant. A few of the city officers wore riot gear, but most were in short-sleeve blue shirts.

Mark Lollis of Nashville, Tenn., stood near the city officers and loudly berated them with insults. Lollis, 29, said he traveled here to take part in the protests.

Three men who belong to the New Black Panther Party then stood between the officers and Lollis. One of them, who declined to identify himself, said, “We're not protecting the police, we're protecting the people.”

When the main body of the march returned to the QuikTrip, the general mood remained peaceful.

But some of those who gathered after the news of the curfew, set for midnight, was released expressed doubt that it would succeed. Said Rhonda Davis, 43, of Hazelwood, "I honestly don't believe that people are going to leave at midnight. It's not that I don't think something ought to be done, not sure this is going to work."

Rain began falling in Ferguson at about 8:10 p.m., and some protesters headed for their cars, others for shelter. The street remained quiet as the rain, light at first, began to get heavier.

The National Weather Service called for an 80 percent chance of rain into the early morning hours. Mark Britt, a meteorologist at the Weather Service office in Weldon Spring, said one danger is that the storms are likely to bring plenty of lightning.

"Radar shows a congealing of of the storms over time. I'd call it a pretty sure-fire bet for tonight," Britt said.

The forecast says some of the showers could be heavy. They are in the forecast through midday Sunday.

— From staff reports

UPDATED at 3:30 p.m. from press conference with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.

FERGUSON • After a week of unrest in Ferguson, Gov. Jay Nixon on Saturday afternoon declared a state of emergency and ordered a curfew for the city.

The governor said the curfew will start tonight and be in effect from midnight until 5 a.m. Officials did not provide details on the curfew boundaries.

He said the target of the curfew is a small group of troublemakers who have turned to looting and violence.

"Last night except for a very few, the folks on the streets of Ferguson last night were peaceful demonstrators," Nixon said. "But we also saw a pattern develop last night where after hours of peaceful protesting, small groups took to the streets with the intent of committing crimes and endangering citizens. That is unacceptable."

Nixon and Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald S. Johnson, who the governor put in charge of security in Ferguson earlier in the week, were interrupted often by angry residents at the press conference at which the curfew was announced.

"We cannot allow the ill will of the few to undermine the good will of the many," Nixon said.

Nixon and Johnson both repeated that justice could not be served in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, 18, that has set off the fury if there is continued unrest. 

Johnson repeatedly said his job was to maintain security and said the investigation into the incident that has sparked protests and looting in Ferguson is not part of his role.

Johnson said the FBI brought 40 agents to Ferguson to knock on doors in the apartment complex to find witnesses of the police shooting that killed Brown a week ago. Police identified Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson as the shooter. Wilson, 28, is on administrative leave from duty.

Asked about last night's violence that followed a day of peaceful protests, Johnson said he had ordered a stronger police presence after he was awakened at home and told that some of his officers were trapped at a parking lot.

Three officers were injured, Johnson said. He said two armored trucks were dispatched to the parking lot, and an officer who felt trapped threw one can of tear gas.

"He was there," Johnson said. "He made that decision."

Officers will not use unnecessary force Saturday night but police do plan to enforce the curfew. Johnson did not explain how the curfew would be enforced as he tried talking over angry residents shouting at him and other officials.

On Friday night, "you saw people sitting in the street, and they got a chance to get up," Johnson said. "And that's the way it's going to continue.

Nixon sidestepped a reporter's question about whether he had the authority to strip St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch of his power to prosecute the case. Nixon said he was focused on security.

Rep. Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, also spoke at the press conference, saying he tipped his hat to law enforcement in recent days for "toning it down, for pulling it back."

But he questioned the prospect for justice in St. Louis County in the high-profile case.

"You're not going to get a fair trial in St. Louis County with this scenario," Clay said.

As they left the stage, some in the audience at Greater St. Mark Family Church in North County yelled "Don't shoot," the same thing that many protesters have been yelling at officers in the streets.

OUR EARLIER STORY:

As the rain stopped in the afternoon, several hundred people took to the streets of Ferguson for a peaceful march.

The march began at the Canfield Green apartments near where Michael Brown was shot a week earlier. 

Rev. Rodney Francis of the St. Louis Clergy Coalition pointed to voter registration tent at the scene. "That's where change is gonna happen," Francis said.

Debra Reed of University City and her daughter, Shiron Hagens, were working at the registration tent. They said they set it up on their own. 

"We're trying to make young people understand that this is how to change things," Reed said. 

Among the signs held by the demonstrators, was one that had a picture of Brown and read: "Black lives matter." Another said: "Mike Brown is our son."

Another sign targeted the city's police chief. It said: "Tom Jackson you should be ashamed. Please resign now."

Earlier, FBI agents could be seen knocking on doors at the Canfield complex seeking information about the shooting of Brown on Aug. 9. His death has touched off several days off protests and looting, including the night before.

— Doug Moore, Steve Giegerich

Updated, at 11:15 a.m.

Among those on the rainy streets of Ferguson late this morning was a motorcycle group of mostly African-American riders, many of them in law enforcement or with the military.

Members of the Outcast and Dominant Breed motorcycle clubs said they were there to show support to the people of Ferguson and deter looters.

One club member said there was no official plan to protect Ferguson. "But normally when they see our presence (troublemakers) don't come around much," the rider said.

Meanwhile, walking up and down the stretch of West Florissant Avenue that has been the scene of protests and looting in recent days was Eichel Johnson, pastor at Inspiring You Christian Church in North County. 

Johnson, who was in clerical garb and holding a Bible, said he is with the St. Louis Pastors Coalition. He was inviting clergy and the public to a peaceful march that will start around dusk this evening. He said the rally will have two starting points on West Florissant: the burned-out QuikTrip and the Family Dollar store. The plan is to meet in the middle for a rally.

Everyone who takes part, he said, would be given an armband to identify them as nonviolent protesters.

Some of the people on the streets were less calm than Johnson about the unrest of recent days. Furious North County residents, young and old, vowed to take the lead in stopping further violence. 

"We're tired of this," said Ferguson resident and St. Louis University student Kyle Lawrence, who was helping cleanup the avenue. "I just wish cooler heads would prevail."

— Nancy Cambria, Steve Giegerich

Updated, at 10:40 a.m.

Gov. Jay Nixon tweeted this morning that he is headed back to Ferguson. His tweet said: "Long night. Thanks to all who tried to stop unnecessary violence. I will be in Ferguson today."

Meanwhile, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster was on the troubled city's streets this morning.

He talked with business owners, some of whom complained of price gouging by contractors called upon to board up their businesses. Koster said he would call contractors.

Also on the streets was resident Kevin Polk, who said all was quiet when he went to bed Friday night. 

"I turned on news at 5:30 and couldn't believe it. I grabbed broom and came straight here," Polk said.

Many of the people on the street denounced the frenzy that had erupted overnight after a night of peaceful protests. They said it was fueled by alcohol.

"You saw positivity up and down street," said Matthew White, a young Ferguson resident. "Why turn it into a negative just when it seemed we were getting the message across." 

Rebecca McCloud was at the burned-out QuikTrip store that had been looted earlier in the week. She said she was organizing rides to bring volunteers to the streets tonight to guard businesses. 

McCloud, who is with Sonlight Missionary Baptist Church in East St. Louis, complained that the community could not rely on any policing agencies for protection.

"We're going to take the community by force," McCloud said of her and her fellow volunteers' efforts.

McCloud is on Twitter at @RLMCCLOUD1.

So many volunteer cleanup workers showed up at the hard-hit Ferguson Market and Liquor near the intersection of West Florissant and Ferguson avenues that the business was turning some away.

A mother with a small child who came to the Ferguson Market said residents felt trapped.

"No place for us to go," she said. "What are we supposed to do now?"

At nearby Northland Chop Suey, the owners studied footprints on a counter left by vaulting looters who stole a small amount of cash. 

On Twitter, St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, posted a stream of tweets about what he witnessed at the protest scene overnight. He and other civic activists came to the scene to restore calm.

He said the looting that erupted "broke my heart" but he understands why police held back.

"I want to be clear: Police not coming in at this point — even with the looting — was a good thing," French said. "It would've gotten very violent."

 — Steve Giegerich, Nancy Cambria, Lisa Eisenhauer

Updated, at 6:15 a.m.

A handful of owners stood guard this morning at their businesses, doing their best to discourage any more looting or violence.

Rain fell on the scene of broken out windows and ransacked store shelves at businesses like Ferguson Market and Liquor.

The streets of Ferguson mostly were void of protesters by 6 a.m. as dawn broke and the rain continued after the violent night.

Staff reports, 6:25 a.m.  

After some of the protesters blocked the entrances to businesses and civic leaders, including St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, arrived early Saturday, the scene calmed and the brief outbreak of looting ended.

The police line was still in place near West Florissant and Ferguson avenues but had not advanced to the site of the protest line as of 2:30. Officers also did not move in during the looting. 

Raw video: Looting of a liquor store in Ferguson

How the violence in Ferguson will change its children

Photos: An early morning of violence after an evening of calm

Timeline: Day by day, a look at how we got here

How a St. Louis prosecutor has faced controversy for decades

Updated, at 1:40 a.m.

Several dozen protesters stood in the middle of West Florissant Avenue screaming at a line of police vehicles about a block away when suddenly some of them broke away and began looting stores.

Among the places hit was Feel Beauty Supply and Ferguson Market and Liquor, which had been previously boarded up and was the site of the earlier incident where Michael Brown was accused of stealing cigars. That incident took place shortly before he was fatally shot by a police officer.

Other protesters eventually lined up in front of the market, keeping looters from returning. 

Car windows and the glass around at least one bus stop were smashed as a driving rain fell.

About 1:30, the police line appeared to be moving forward toward the protesters.

Earlier story:

For most of Friday night, a festive atmosphere reigned in Ferguson as hundreds of people lined a two-block stretch of West Florissant Avenue, waving at honking cars slowly passing by, but shortly after midnight, the situation turned volatile as police showed up in riot gear.

The several hundred protesters who had remained had been fairly peaceful but stood in a face-off with police at the corner of West Florissant and Ferguson avenues.

The groups stood about 20 feet away from one another, some police officers pointing guns at the crowd, some protesters pointing cameras at police. Police told the crowd over a loudspeaker to disperse immediately. Some in the crowd threw a few bottles at police, who didn’t initially react.

After several minutes, police turned and left, but as they retreated, they sprayed smoke bombs and threw sound cannons at the crowd. Some responded by throwing more bottles.

Dozens in the crowd ran up West Florissant in a panic, some jumping in their cars and driving the wrong way on the road. Once the police were out of sight, protesters fired guns at least 10 times into the air.

Later a barricade of vehicles blocked traffic on the street.

The scene was a drastic change from that of earlier in the day. Friday night Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald S. Johnson went to the QuikTrip with U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, whose district includes Ferguson.

“There hasn’t been an incident tonight, last night, and I think if we had had this approach Sunday or Monday night, we wouldn’t have had any incidents then,” Johnson said.

One of the protesters, Tyzer Egerson, said of the mood Friday night, “It’s a beautiful thing. It’s freedom of speech, the way it’s supposed to be.”

The crowd was at times entertained by a drum corps and a group of break dancers.

Johnson said there had been no arrests as of 10 p.m.

“These people are exercising their 1st Amendment rights and walking on the sidewalks and streets their tax dollars paid for,” Johnson said.

A rainstorm later reduced some of the crowd, but enough people stayed around to keep the noise and commotion going. It remained peaceful as of 11:45 p.m.

Ken Leiser and Joel Currier of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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Koran Addo is a reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Paul Hampel is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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