As Ferguson cleans up, government's response sparks criticism

A day after violence and looting in Ferguson, the sounds of cleanup filled the air

The sounds of cleanup -- crinkling glass, the pounding of hammers and the buzz of a circular saw -- filled the air Tuesday morning on South Florissant Road, where windows were smashed at businesses a block from the Ferguson Police Department headquarters.

It could have been worse.

"People locked arms and blocked looters" out in front of Cathy's Kitchen during the night, preventing them from doing more damage than smashing a window, said owner Jerome Jenkins, 47. "I wish I knew who they were."

Things also could have been better.

"We had time to be prepared for this, and we weren't," Jenkins said of the government response to hours of violence and looting in the aftermath of Monday's grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case. His biggest disappointment? Gov. Jay Nixon for his promises to protect business owners and for his deployment of the National Guard, which did not intervene during the night.

Then Jenkins said, there was the way the grand jury's decision was announced -- a rumor in the afternoon that kindled panic among area residents and business owners before an 8 p.m. announcement, well after dark. "Why would you do this at night?" he asked, flabbergasted. "What plan do you have that would give criminals the advantage of darkness to run around in?"

Inside and outside the former Snappy's Bar and Grill, which Jenkins is renovating into a blues-and-barbecue restaurant, more than a dozen volunteers gingerly removed long shards of broken glass still hanging from the frames of the windows wrapping around the building.

"I was a little afraid something would happen," said building owner and Ferguson resident Mary Faramarzi, 54, after giving a report to a police officer who came to check out the damage. Of her decision not to board the windows, she said -- with a note of uncertainty in her voice -- "I guess I have too much faith in humanity."

Faramarzi added, "I love this community. Ferguson is a great community. What I hope is people will still support our community."

Watching the volunteers work was Eric Handley, 53, a St. Louis County resident who grew up nearby and said he taught political science for a small online college.

"This is sad," he said, looking at the shattered windows. "When you destroy your community, you're destroying jobs. It pains me to see [places] 10 minutes from where I grew up get destroyed. .... It's almost like seeing your family members' livelihoods get taken away. The businesses have always been good to us."

Handley added, "This is not what Martin Luther King Jr., would have wanted."

He said he felt compelled to come see the aftermath of the looting and violence for reasons other than just solidarity. "In the future, I'll be teaching this to my students," Handley said. "This will be in history books. And I want to make sure I give a firsthand account to my students."

Twitter: @mattdpearce

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
59°