Days after unarmed teenager Michael Brown was gunned down by a Ferguson police officer, demonstrators took to the streets for a fourth time to call for justice and the arrest of the officer in question.
What they were met with, however, were the barrels of rifles, tear gas, and rubber bullets.
Officers in militarized gear made a human wall around the city of Ferguson, urging residents to disperse and media to get out. Earlier, city officials told demonstrators to gather in the daylight hours. But many residents who trekked back to their vehicles well before nightfall were blocked off from their homes, gathering in front of officers to plead for access to their cars, family, and friends, as tear gas canisters being fired sounded just feet away.
Myia Cook of Festus Mo., emerged from the tear gas breathless, still in her nurses uniform, after trying to reach her fiancé’s children just behind the now-charred QuikTrip. She had come to Ferguson after work to take the children out of town.
“We were standing there on the corner with reporters waiting to see what was going to happen,” the 23-year-old said. “They hit us with the tear gas at first and then they started shooting rubber bullets out of nowhere.”
“The bullets kept going,” Cook said, describing the increase of rubber pellets every time the overhead light from a police chopper would appear. “Everybody kept on running. They maced one reporter who was with us.”
Her fiance, Ivory McKinzie, described a chilling scene. Protestors, he said, picked up tear gas canisters, some armed, to stand their ground against the advancing officers.
“The cops said if anybody shoots towards us, everybody is a target,” McKinzie said. “I’m just trying to get my 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.”
According to the Associated Press, members of the crowd threw Molotov cocktails and other objects. But residents disputed that claim, saying the extreme show of force from officers is the only violence occurring in the Ferguson area.
“At about 9:00 p.m., over by the QuikTrip, they started shooting the tear gas,” Jimmy Knight, a Ferguson resident told GlobalGrind. “These girls were running, trying to get to their car from the gas. When they got to the car, turned the car on, that’s when the cops went to the car 18 deep and grabbed those girls out, like they had guns. They threw them on the ground, a cop put a knee in one of the girl’s backs.”
One of those girls was pregnant, Knight said.
“It’s all real. They been doing this for a while, this been going on for years. Ferguson been crooked long enough.”
Knight suggested the barricading of Ferguson was to keep media out, something Florissant resident Joshua Perez-Rijos echoed as police continued to advance on a peaceful crowd, holding rifles and threatening the arrest of journalists and citizens.
“What you saw was chaos, but at the same time you saw a lot of peaceful people,” he said, referring to reports that riots were incited by Ferguson residents. “There was a peaceful protest in Clayton and I have white friends who went. Police were calling them ‘nigger lovers,’ they were calling black people apes,” he added.
The night proved them correct. Media, it turned out, was not safe.
During this time, we asked the officers for badge numbers. We asked to speak to a supervising officer. We asked why we were being detained. We were told: trespassing in a McDonald’s.
“I hope you’re happy with yourself,” one officer told me. And I responded: “This story’s going to get out there. It’s going to be on the front page of The Washington Post tomorrow.”
And he said, “Yeah, well, you’re going to be in my jail cell tonight.”
Alderman Antonio French was also detained last night for unlawful assembly.
Protestors gathered in front of what will be the new Ferguson Police Department to call for French’s release.
He was released this morning.
We’ll keep you updated on the latest from Ferguson.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty | VIDEO SOURCE: YouTube