Ferguson: A night of looting, tense standoffs follow day of calm
A new round of looting and tense standoffs with police ended early Saturday with no major clashes as the number of protesters gradually dwindled and police retreated from the streets in a drizzling rain.
But the return of smashed shop windows and sporadic looting overnight after more than a day of largely peaceful demonstrations and a lower-key police presence prompted some residents to warn that public anger over the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown had not subsided.
“This is wonderful. This is what should have happened a long time ago,” Robert Powell, 42, said as he watched looters during the night hop through the shattered glass door of a meat market.
Powell, who owns a professional cleaning service, grew up on the city’s west side, and to him, this was small-time crime.
He dismissed the looters as “suburban nerds” likely to get busted. But after years of living in a town where he said African American men are singled out for harsh treatment by the police, he shared the looters’ frustration.
He gestured to surrounding businesses, whose fluorescent lights were now shattered, their parking lots strewn with broken bottles.
“They support these police, give them free food. People just got tired of it,” he said.
Powell blamed the unrest on the Ferguson police chief’s release of information Friday about Brown.
Along with the identity of the officer who shot Brown after a confrontation a week ago that allegedly began in the officer’s car, police on Friday also released surveillance video purporting to show that Brown had robbed a mini-mart shortly before his encounter with police.
Many Ferguson residents have said the release inappropriately pointed blame at Brown at a time when the focus should have been on the officer who shot him.
“I guarantee things will change after this,” Powell said.
A few young men ran by as he spoke, looted cigarillos spilling from their pockets. More were jumping the door into the market. Powell stepped to the curb and shouted: “Hey, get out of there!” They ignored him.
“The president needs to come here,” Powell said. “He needs to make sure they fire the police chief of Ferguson, get an alternative prosecutor and put [Gov.] Jay Nixon in a corner. He’s anti-black people and pro-law enforcement,” Powell said. “That will be a start.”
Further down the road, Etefia Umana and his son were walking past the scene of the earlier mayhem, with Umana pointing out businesses where citizens had prevented looters from entering.
“We had some friends who were blocking stores,” he said, though he admitted that at some businesses, “eventually they were overwhelmed.”
Umana said he came simply to bear witness. “To make sure the community is safe.”
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