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FERGUSON • Cassandra Roberts said she just wanted to show her solidarity with protesters.

“It seemed like after last night, things were more peaceful,” Roberts said.

But on Sunday night, the Richmond Heights resident found herself covered in tear gas as she knelt in the middle of West Florissant Avenue while police clashed with protest marchers.

A member of the crowd grabbed Roberts, 32, and helped her to the nearby McDonald’s restaurant, where workers bathed her face in milk.

“I knelt down because I trusted them,” she said of police, “because they’re not supposed to hurt me. I thought it was a symbol of surrender.”

Roberts said she only remembers “things” hitting the ground around her and then exploding, before releasing the gas.

“It felt like my eyes got knocked out of my head,” she said. “My nose was running and I couldn’t breathe.”

Police at the scene had no immediate comment on what touched off the exchange with demonstrators. But on Twitter, the St. Louis County police reported that someone had thrown a Molotov cocktail at police at an undisclosed location sometime after 9 p.m. County officials added that shots had been fired at Solway Avenue and West Florissant.

Police began firing tear gas at protesters in Ferguson shortly after 9 p.m., causing some to flee for safety.

The gas was fired at the southern end of the protest area, near Solway.

Protesters began marching south on West Florissant Avenue toward Lucas and Hunt Road.

Police made their way north on West Florissant to Canfield Drive. Many officers wore riot gear and gas masks.

Demonstrators laid bricks on West Florissant in the path of police. Officers continued to push north toward the QuikTrip station that was burned during the first night of looting and fire.

Officers ordered protesters to “disperse from the area immediately” and warned that those who didn’t comply “are subject to arrest.”

Protesters shot off aerial fireworks in the area. Police ordered television news photographers to turn off their lights. About 10 to 15 minutes into the march, police began firing tear gas.

Some of the tear gas canisters landed in nearby neighborhoods.

“This is terrible,” said George Clay, 41, who lives on Ellison Drive near Solway Avenue. “It is making it bad for people just trying to get to work.”

In the wake of demonstrations and looting, Ferguson was subject to a midnight curfew for the second night in a row. As the curfew neared, police vehicles began moving through the area and officers were ordering people to go home again.

Firefighters responded to a fire at the Dellwood Market near Chambers Road and Lakemoor Drive after 10:30 p.m. The store appeared to have been broken into and looted. Three people were arrested near the scene. No further details were available.

Earlier in the night, demonstrator Terrence Moore warned that police should not expect crowds to get smaller.

“They were hoping, I guess, that this would dissipate,” Moore said. “But it won’t. We all know that problems exist, and then when something like this (Michael Brown’s killing), everyone wonders why. We’ll be here until we get an explanation delivered with a level of respect.”

At nightfall, people were openly wondering what would unfold.

“It’s unpredictable now because tensions are high,” said Pedro Smith, 21, of Dellwood, watching from the sidelines. “It’s hard to tell what the night is going to hold.”

Protesters vowed more intense events if there isn’t an indictment against the officer who shot Michael Brown. One wore a T-shirt that read: “Stand for something fall for nothing.”

“I have never seen anything like this before, a whole neighborhood coming together today,” said Brittany Watson, 22, of Nashville, Tenn. She was with a group called “the Brown justice chasers.”