An evening of peaceful protests in Ferguson abruptly shifted to violence just before midnight when a man was shot near the Family Dollar store on West Florissant Avenue.
The rear window of an unmarked police vehicle also was shattered, apparently by a bullet.
The Saturday night gunfire sent chaos through a large group that had gathered to commemorate Michael Brown, who was killed a year ago this weekend.
Witnesses said the altercation began outside a McDonald's restaurant and the victim was pursued and shot in a nearby Family Dollar parking lot.
The man was shot in the left arm. Police shut down West Florissant Avenue at Ferguson Road to respond to the gunfire and to allow emergency crews to take the man with the bullet wound to a hospital.
FERGUSON • Ask a neighbor, a marcher or the ice cream man watching in a parking lot on West Florissant Avenue.
They’ll tell you that during the daytime, Saturday looked a lot different than a year ago.
Police officers handed out Popsicles. Protesters took rides in Missouri State Highway Patrol ATVs. Children played in the street and sprayed each other with water bottles.
About 100 people walked about five miles from Canfield Green apartments to Normandy High School on a sultry Saturday morning.
Michael Brown Sr. led the planned march, accompanied by a police escort. Despite temperatures in the low 90s, there were no injuries or health-related incidents reported.
“God is good,” said Jana Gamble, a spokeswoman for the Brown family’s Chosen For Change nonprofit organization. “It all came together like it was supposed to.”
Sunday marks the one-year anniversary since Brown’s son, Michael Brown Jr., was fatally shot by then-Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson. The death occurred just days after the 18-year-old officially graduated on Aug. 1 from Normandy High.
Saturday’s march was part of a series of events that the Brown family is organizing through their nonprofit group.
Just before midnight, the peaceful tone of the day’s events was interupted when gunshots were heard at the Family Dollar on West Florissant Avenue.
Police said a man was shot and the back window of an unmarked police vehicle was also shattered by gunfire.
Earlier in the evening, demonstrators were gathered on West Florissant at Canfield Drive.
There also were a handful of people at the Ferguson Police Department.
Interim Ferguson Police Chief Andre Anderson and St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar spent time talking with people in the crowd. Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson also mingled with those who gathered to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Brown’s death.
College studies prevented Starla Sha, 25, of Rockford, Ill., from coming to Ferguson last summer, but she wanted to be here this time around. It’s more constructive a year later, she said. For Deborah Kennedy, the growing crowd on West Florissant was an all-too-familiar scene, but it was a much calmer time than a year ago, she said.
But Kennedy, of St. Charles, is not convinced the good feelings will be prolonged.
“We still don’t have a lot of positive change. I think they (the police) are just trying to wait it out.”
Events were scheduled to continue Sunday, with a “silent walk” planned to start about noon and lead to the Greater St. Mark Family Church from the Michael Brown Memorial Site on Canfield.
On Saturday morning, honking and chanting drew neighbors out along the marchers’ route. On Lucas and Hunt Road, no one could remember the last march that passed their neighborhood. Onlookers grabbed phones and took photos.A police officer in a patrol car and a driver in a Metro Call-a-Ride vehicle gave celebratory horn blasts to the marchers. Stalled motorists were generally respectful, and some danced in their cars to marchers’ music while their streets were temporarily blocked off.Debra Ford and her family stood near St. Andrews Place and Lucas and Hunt. She took photos and waved to marchers.
“We’re just standing here for support,” Ford said.
Layla Foroughi, a junior at Washington University, and Lydia Harris, a senior at New York University, were among those waiting at the march’s staging area on Canfield.
Foroughi came once last year. Harris had never been but had seen news photos and video. She said the experience of actually being on Canfield was different.
“It’s poignant,” Harris said.
The morning started quietly. Brown Sr. and a number of others prayed around the memorial site. They spoke somberly about the events a year before.
Then, a drumline’s rhythmic thumping broke out, exciting the marchers.
Da Warehouse Warriors Youth Marching Machine was made up of about 40 members ages 6-16, bused down to participate in the march. Drum instructor James Dickens helped start the group last fall. He said almost all the youths who joined had never played a drum before. The group is based in the 5th Ward off Broadway in St. Louis.
Sabrina Person — a parent whose 12-year-old twins, Lamont and Lamarr, played cymbals — said the drumline was proud to play Saturday.
“It means a lot,” Person said. “This is a teaching moment to the kids to always stand up for something.”
Most people who lined up on Canfield marched the entire five miles. The youth drumline joined them for about the first and last half mile.
When they met up for the march’s last leg, the drumline pounded loudly and led the participants into Normandy High’s football field. A sports car in the parade pulled over and performed a burnout. Police continued to hand more Popsicles to the celebratory marchers who passed the nearby St. Peter’s Cemetery, where Michael Brown Jr. is buried.
A woman smiled and watched as the marchers processed into the high school. She then noticed a “funeral” tag hanging on her rearview mirror from a recent procession she participated in.
Not wanting to bring the mood down, she removed the tag and crumpled it up.
HUNDREDS GATHER FOR MYERS
The mood was reflective and peaceful as more than 400 people gathered Saturday afternoon at a memorial march for VonDerrit Myers Jr., the 18-year-old who was fatally shot in the Shaw neighborhood after a confrontation with an off-duty St. Louis police officer.Myers’ death, which came about seven weeks after the fatal shooting of Brown, added to tension over police-civilian relations in the St. Louis region, a subject that was on the minds of many who gathered at Shaw Boulevard and Klemm Street.Myers’ mother, Syreeta, was surrounded by supporters and people who just wanted to give her a hug.
“Today makes 10 months since he was taken away from us,” she said of her son. “We are out today to honor him. The pain is still there. It helps to know that you are not alone.”
Myers was shot about 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8 in the 4100 block of Shaw. He was fatally shot by Jason Flanery, an off-duty St. Louis patrolman who was working a secondary security job.
Police said Myers fired several shots that missed and was killed by return fire. His family disputes the police version of events. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce announced in May that no charges would be filed against Flanery.
Syreeta Myers and her husband, VonDerrit Myers Sr., arrived Saturday at the site where their son was killed after participating in the five-mile march for Brown.
Myers said the fight was not only for his son but for others who have lost their loved ones at the hands of law enforcement.
“Ten years down the road I would like to see people at peace, for justice to be served and for the system to act on accountability,” he said.
“My boy was loved by many,” Myers said of his only child. “We all have our mishaps, he was just a kid.”
Jermaine Wooten, one of the family’s attorneys, said he was surprised by the diverse show of support, saying the crowd appeared to be 70 percent white and 30 percent black.
“This is an amazing community show of support for the Myers family,” he said. “They are here to show the diverse community that they are standing with them in support of the loss of their son.”
The Rev. Lucas Johnson, with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, flew in from Amsterdam on Thursday to attend the events.
“I’m here to remember, to learn and to work with folks to find our way forward,” he said. “Young people from all over the world are paying attention to what’s happening here.”