Ferguson forecast: Cold, wet, snow with a chance of calm

Ferguson forecast: Cold, wet, snow with a chance of calm
Missouri National Guard troops stand in the rain outside the Ferguson Police Station on Nov. 26. (Laurie Skrivan / Associated Press)

At least three dozen protesters -- and about as many journalists -- gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department on a cold, wet Wednesday night.

National Guard Humvees were parked up and down South Florissant Road, their blue lights flickering across the fronts of the businesses they were protecting.


"You have a light?" a lone man in a mask called out to the lines of National Guard members who held their plastic riot shields on the ground several dozen feet behind a barricade.

The Guard did not respond.

About three dozen guardsmen in riot gear stood in front of the police headquarters, flashpoint for demonstrations this week after a grand jury refused to indict white police Officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man.

All but a few police officers remained out of sight at the mostly calm scene, punctuated by the profane outbursts of two demonstrators barking at the Guard troops. Photographers scampered to capture their outbursts, as little else was happening.

A bit later, an older man in a dark windbreaker scolded a few younger demonstrators who were jawing at the impassive guardsmen. "Go back across the street! We want a peaceful protest!" he shouted.

The younger protesters ignored him.

At times the scene seemed farcical. "The protesters [are] gathering in increasing size across the street," one TV reporter narrated, gesturing toward a crowd of journalists.

One masked live-streamer cussed out someone who had touched him, drawing the attention of the crowd and a few guardsmen. The live-streamer walked away, then paced on the sidewalk as he explained his side of the story to his followers.

"He grabbed my arm," the live-streamer told the camera he pointed at himself.

By 10:15 p.m., three dozen demonstrators, journalists in tow, were blocking an intersection about half a mile from the police station.

A light snow had turned to mist, and it was 34 degrees. Overnight, the temperature was expected to drop to 25, with more snow possible.

Earlier Wednesday, activists rushed into St. Louis City Hall after demonstrating outside and shouting, "Shame, Shame." Some then entered the building and police responded. As many as five people were arrested, officials said.

On Monday night, after the grand jury's decision was announced, police appeared to be caught off guard by the size and vehemence of the protests, which led to the arrests of more than 80 people in the St. Louis area. Fires damaged or destroyed 21 buildings, and 10 police cars were destroyed. Businesses were looted and police used tear gas to disperse the crowds. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said he had heard about 150 gunshots that night, and his officers did not fire a shot.

On Tuesday night, however, the level of violence diminished. Authorities tripled the size of the National Guard contingent to more than 2,000, who joined hundreds of police officers working extra shifts. And State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said he'd heard from several members of the community who were appalled by Monday's violence. He credited the community with helping to calm the situation.


Still, 45 arrests were reported Tuesday night in Ferguson, including at least four for alleged felonies. An additional 13 arrests were reported in the St. Louis area.

Twitter: @mattdpearce 

Staff writer Michael Muskal in Los Angeles contributed to this report.