Ferguson, Mo.: A witness to the face-off in the darkness

Demonstrators in Ferguson, Mo., scatter Monday night after police fired tear gas.
(Matt Pearce / Los Angeles Times)

On a small hill overlooking an area of Ferguson where rioters ravaged stores Sunday night, a crowd of youths stared down police and reveled in the confrontation late Monday.

Little could be seen of what lay at the bottom of the hill, where bright police lights blinded out the source of the tear gas that riot officers were tossing at the young men and women.

“Hands up, don’t shoot,” the protesters chanted, inching closer to the barely visible police line. One man drifted several dozen feet closer with his arms up, lifting his shirt and spinning around as if to say: Look, no gun. Then an older woman in a dust mask spotted him and shouted, “Get your ass back here!”


When a Los Angeles Times reporter would interview one of the young demonstrators, the message was often the same, give or take a profanity: They wanted respect from the police. And they didn’t want to become another Michael Brown, the 18-year-old unarmed man shot to death by police on Saturday.

Then they would go back to shouting at the police.

“These are the next kids to get shot, right here,” said Troy Woods, 48, of St. Louis, gesturing at the demonstrators -- “16, 17, 18 years old. ... They treat us like second class all the way down the line.”

Ricky Jones, 34, shouted his grievances. “Insurance is high, gas is high, but that’s not why I get mad,” he said. “At the end of the day, when I’m driving home, they ask me to pull over and get out of the car. No ‘license and registration, please.’ Get out of the car. Lay on the ground. Put your hands on your head.”

And whenever the next young black man gets killed by police, like Brown, he says, “it doesn’t even matter what the story is.” The outcome, he says, is basically the same.

Regina Woods, 43, watched the action from inside her car as police pushed the demonstrators farther and farther up the hill with tear gas and noisemakers.

“I came out to monitor our youth in their peaceful demonstration,” she said, nodding to a group of shouting protesters. A few minutes earlier, some of them had started throwing stones at police.


Just then, another tear gas canister landed on top of the hill. She fled, along with many of the other onlookers.

A young woman warned a Times reporter to go, saying other protesters were thinking about bringing out guns.

It was 9:30 p.m.

Moments later, police took the hill. No gunfire had been heard.