McCulloch Blasts Nixon For Replacing St. Louis County Police
Many people drove down the street honking their horns, raising their arms, and holding signs on W. Florissant in Ferguson on Thursday evening, Aug. 14, 2014, as some demonstrators stood in the middle of the street. Photo by J.B. Forbes, email@example.com
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch Thursday night blasted the decision by Gov. Jay Nixon to replace St. Louis County Police control of the Ferguson situation with the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
“It’s shameful what he did today, he had no legal authority to do that,” McCulloch said. “To denigrate the men and women of the county police department is shameful.”
McCulloch noted that no one was seriously injured in the effort led by County Police Chief Jon Belmar until Nixon handed control of the Ferguson over to the state agency on Thursday.
“For Nixon to never talk to the commanders in the field and come in here and take this action is disgraceful,” McCulloch said.
“I hope I’m wrong, but I think what Nixon did may put a lot of people in danger.”
Paul Hampel, 8:33 p.m.
Two assaults reported
A Washington University student was reportedly assaulted near the Ferguson McDonald’s in what one witness said appeared to be a knock-out game.
Restaurant employees gave the unidentified victim ice to ease face swelling. Acquaintances subsequently transported him to a hospital.
The victim praised the “many people here (who) rushed to help me.”
Eli Rosenberg, a reporter for KMBC in Kansas City, meanwhile tweeted that an unknown assailant delivered four punches to the face of his cameraman.
“Paramedics say (the cameraman) will feel it in the morning, but should be okay,” Rosenberg tweeted.
Paul Hampel at 12:05 p.m.
Black Panthers help Ferguson head in the right direction
A half-dozen members of the New Black Panther political movement were out on West Florissant Avenue Thursday night as night fell. Not a police officer was in sight. The New Black Panthers directed traffic.
“If you want the police to stay away, somebody has to do it. Nobody is doing it,” said Jarren Brown, aka “Brother Genius,” as he signaled to cars, stopping some so others could turn on side streets, stopping others so some can turn off side streets.
The group, wearing all black and at least one with a small New Black Panthers pin on his lapel, worked up a sweat as they moved. They exuded a friendly but firm stance, urging the slowing, honking cars on West Florissant to move along.
Koran Addo at 8:55 p.m.
No police presence on West Florissant Avenue
A cheer went up as police departed the area near the Ferguson QuikTrip looted and burned during a night of unrest Sunday night.
Demonstrators remained on the sidewalk after the departure and did not attempt to block traffic on West Florissant Avenue. Motorists signaled their support for the protesters by honking their horns and the chant of “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” occasionally filled the air.
But the scene near the site where Michael Brown was gunned down last Saturday remained calm.
Paula Lotts of St. Louis, came to Ferguson Thursday night to support her three boys.
“It’s sad our children have to live like this,” she told a reporter. “We’re not scared of people in the community, we’re afraid of the police. The police stop our kids everywhere they go. Every black child is not doing wrong. Please don’t put our children in that category. It’s not a black-white thing – it’s a police thing.”
Koran Addo at 7:10 p.m.
As many as 300 marchers made their way along West Florissant Avenue late Thursday afternoon in the most peaceful demonstration since the shooting death of Michael Brown five days ago.
Capt. Ronald Johnson, the Missouri State Highway Patrol officer Gov. Jay Nixon placed in charge of the Ferguson situation Thursday afternoon led the procession.
Johnson marched in shirtsleeves – a stark contrast with the para-military uniforms that have become the symbol of the Ferguson police presence during nearly a week of unrest.
In an impromptu discussion with reporters, Johnson allowed that he has “a big dog in this fight.”
Johnson grew up nearby, close to the intersection of Halls Ferry and Chambers Roads.
“I occasionally go to Red’s Barbeque,” he said, giving a shout out to a popular Ferguson restaurant. “And I’ve had a few beers in this town, too.”
Well-wishers and residents handed the marchers bottles of water, pizza, homemade dishes and cookies as they passed.
“I’m out here hoping for peace for the protesters and the police,” said Bridgett Norise of Dellwood. “It’s nice to see no divisions. This is the most unity I’ve seen in years.”
Her friend, Regina Carter, agreed.
“It’s very nice to see white and black people marching together peacefully,” she said.
But the presence of Johnson was clearly the difference between Thursday and the four nights of turmoil that preceded it.
“I love this man so much,” said Angela Whitman of Berkeley. “He’s been here since the beginning,giving us encouragement and letting us know we’ll get through this.”
Marchers under Johnson’s eye picked up debris along the demonstration route – another sign that perhaps tensions are at at last easing in the troubled North County community.
Paul Hampel and Koran Addo at 6:40 p.m.
Nixon turns police control over to Missouri State Highway Patrol
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has given police oversight of the Ferguson situation to the Missouri State Highway Patrol under the command of Capt. Ronald S. Johnson, a St. Louis area native.
Nixon said the change in command will include a softening in “tone” and “amplitude” regarding protective force.
“Clearly you’ll see as the afternoon and evening starts, a little different picture,” Nixon said, adding, “We should all know there will be resources out there if things get difficult, that people will be safe.”
Nixon addressed questions from the press at the University of Missouri-St. Louis after touring areas of Ferguson. He was flanked by Johnson, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay.
Johnson pledged to protect Ferguson while allowing protesters and marchers to have their say. He said he wants to rebuild trust and respect in the community.
“I grew up here and this is clearly my community and my home. Therefore, this means a lot to me personally,” he said. “I understand the anger and fear that the citizens of Ferguson are feeling, and I understand and respect both of those.”
Earlier today at a gathering at Christ the King United Church of Christ Nixon pledged to make an “operational shift” in the way Ferguson protests are being handled by police and had promised to reveal his plans later today.
“We will have a different approach today,” Johnson said. He planned to go to the burned out QuikTrip that has been a center for protesters and visit with them.
McCaskill calls to “demilitarize the police response”
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill got a standing ovation inside Christ the King United Church of Christ this morning when she told a crowd the county should “demilitarize the police response” in Ferguson.
McCaskill spoke moments after Gov. Jay Nixon told the same crowd there would be an “operational shift” in the handling of Ferguson.
Afterward she told reporters, “The police response has been part of the problem.”
McCaskill told reporters, “It is my understanding that the county police will be taken off the investigation.”
But when pressed on it, she didn’t elaborate.
Nixon got loud applause from the crowd when he talked about the media. “If people in the newspapers want to cover things and take pictures and stuff,” he said. “They ought to do it. It’s a free country.”
-Kevin McDermott at 11:10 a.m. with updates
Obama calls for “peace and calm” in Ferguson
President Barack Obama today called again for “peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson,” addressing for the second time the police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown and the violent clashes between police and protesters that have ensued.
“Let us remember we are all part of one American family,” Obama said in a short address from Martha’s Vineyard, where he is vacationing. “We are united in common values and that includes belief in equality under the law, basic respect for public order and the right of peaceful protest.”
Obama also notably gave a vote of confidence to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon. Obama said he talked with Nixon this morning and “I expressed my concern over the violent turn of events” in Ferguson.
“He is a good man and fine governor,” Obama said.
Obama said he was briefed this morning on the situation in Ferguson by Attorney General Eric Holder. He criticized the arrest of journalists, said there is no excuse for police use of force against peaceful protesters, and that there is “never an excuse for violence against police or those who would use this as a cover for vandalism or looting.”
– Chuck Raasch at 12:10 p.m. Thursday
Ferguson Chief outlines plan to “reduce tensions”
Calling the situation a “powder keg,” Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson signaled a change of strategy this afternoon, describing a plan to try to “reduce tensions” by allowing protesters to use sidewalks while keeping streets open to traffic.
He said officials want to tone down the confrontations and will talk about “not only the tactics but the appearance” of police in riot gear. He said tactical units would remain on standby in case of trouble.
Pressed about use of tear gas on non-violent demonstrators, Jackson suggested that people need to distance themselves from those who provoke police with aggressive acts or threats.
“There is gunfire. There are fire bombs being thrown at the police,” he said.
Jackson said police were devising a plan to make sidewalks around West Florissant available to the protesters, and that they were going to put up cones so people would stay out of the street. Port-A-Potties would also be provided
“We’ll allow them to freely protest for as long as they want,” he said. “We want to facilitate their ability to protest because it’s a constitutional right.”
He acknowledged last night’s police response did not look good and said, “there are several meeting going on to evaluate tactics.”
“We’re going to talk about not only the tactics but the appearance. We’re having conversations.”
Jackson said decisions regarding dispersing crowds with tear gas were made by tactical commanders at the scene “based on the threat of violence.”
“We can’t individually go in and say, ‘Are you peacefully protesting? Are you throwing rocks? Are you throwing Molotov cocktails?'”
An Al-Jazeera reporter asked why police shot tear gas at their camera crew on a block with no protesters nearby. Jackson said he wasn’t sure who made the decision to do that and would look into it. “The media is not a target,” he said.
He also said he didn’t know why two reporters were arrested at a McDonald’s Wednesday night.
– Pat Gauen and Walker Moskop at 12:35 p.m. Thursday with updates
Area clergy plan 5 p.m. peace march with Ferguson youth
The St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition has planned a 5 p.m. community march “to stand in solidarity with the peaceful youth of Ferguson so their voices can be heard in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown,” said The Rev. Michael Kinman of Christ Church Cathedral, in a written release.
“This is a nonviolent action and our goal is not so much to raise our voices but to make sure the voices of the young people of Ferguson are heard,” Kinman said in the statement.
Marchers plan to gather at 5 p.m. today at the Mobil station on the corner of West Florissant Ave. and Chambers Road. Clergy were asked to bring their Bibles, “so that we are marching with the power of the Word of God.”
Participants were also asked to bring a care package in a clear plastic bag containing toiletries and other items for people who have been unable to go to the store because of the protests and police action.
“So we take this action not just out of love for the young people of Ferguson and Michael Brown and his family,” Kinman wrote in the release. “We take this action out of love for the Ferguson Police Department and all the officers of the many Metropolitan Police Departments who have pledged to protect and serve and who put their lives on the line for this community.”
– Nancy Cambria at 2:40 p.m. Thursday
Two injuries reported from last night’s unrest in Ferguson
Christian Hospital treated one 23-year-old male for rubber bullet-related injuries Wednesday evening following the demonstrations in Ferguson, said hospital spokesman Bret Berigan. The patient was released shortly after treatment.
Police also reported an officer injured an ankle when a brick was thrown at him.
– Samantha Liss at 2:45 p.m. Thursday with updates
Moment of silence prior to Cardinals game
Fans at the first St. Louis Cardinals home game since the Saturday shooting of Ferguson teen Michael Brown observed a moment of silence Thursday in honor of the recent Normandy High School graduate.
“For over a century Cardinals baseball has been an integral part of the fabric of St. Louis – bringing us together as a community and enriching our lives in so many important ways. St. Louis is a good community with good people who care about one another, our neighborhoods and our region. In recent days we have all been heartbroken by a series of violent events that do not reflect who we are as a people. We ask that you join us tonight in taking a stand against violence as we unite as one community,” the field announcer told fans prior to the Cardinals contest with the San Diego Padres.
Derrick Goold at 9:50 p.m.
Sharpton back to St. Louis on Sunday
Civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network is heading back to St. Louis to lead a rally in support of Michael Brown. Brown’s parents, Attorney Benjamin Crump, the family’s lawyer, and Martin Luther King III are all expected to speak at the event. The rally is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at Greater Grace Church in Ferguson. Sharpton spoke at Greater St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church earlier in the week, drawing more than 1,000 supporters.
– Lilly Fowler at 1:50 p.m. Thursday with update of new location
St. Charles County swat team releases statement regarding handling of media camera equipment
Amid international criticism of the way law enforcement treated media covering Ferguson last night, the St. Charles County Regional SWAT Team released the following statement this afternoon saying its officers were helping reporters last night:
“Over the last few days, the St. Charles County Regional SWAT Team has assisted in Ferguson at the request of the St. Louis County Police Department to help respond to looting and for protection of the property of Ferguson citizens and businesses. On Wednesday, August 13th, video footage was taken of St. Charles County SWAT officers handling media camera equipment. The position of the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department is that the media has the right to cover these events and supports the freedom of the press, and the SWAT Team has not been any part of attempting to prevent media coverage. In fact, last night the SWAT Team officers were assisting the media in moving their camera equipment and media personnel to a safer area with their consent so that they could continue to cover the event. The Sheriff has notified St. Louis County Police that the St. Charles County Regional SWAT Team is available to protect life and property but does not have a continued role in crowd control during this time of civil protest.”
SWAT teams were heavily criticized on social media after video emerged showing tear gas being lobbed directly at a camera crew for the news organization Al-Jazeera. The SWAT officers were later filmed dismantling the camera equipment.
– Nancy Cambria at 2:05 p.m. with updates
McCaskill says riot equipment amplifying tensions
Sen. Claire McCaskill followed Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson to the microphone at a press conference this afternoon, suggesting that the riot equipment used by police has amplified the tension — and lauding officials’ apparent recognition of it. “I think the demilitarization of the response is going to help a lot,” she said.
She said most police officers are good people eager to keep the community safe, and could relate better to the protesters as people. “I’d love it if some of the officers would go over and have a bottle of water with them.”
As for law enforcement officials’ refusal to release information about the case, McCaskill said that letting out information “in dribs and drabs” can hamper the quality of the investigation and compromise justice in the end. McCaskill, a Democrat, is a former prosecutor.
– Pat Gauen at 1 p.m. Thursday
Ferguson situation resonates at international United Nations conference on civil rights
Delegations of American civil rights officials and activists are in Geneva, Switzerland this week for a United Nations conference on racial equality, and the shooting death of Michael Brown is reverberating there.
“Clearly this issue is resonating here… and they knew about it before we got here,” said Hilary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP Washington Bureau. The story “continues to run in circulation over and over again (on Geneva television). The world is watching what is happening in Ferguson, Missouri.”
– Chuck Raasch at 1:45 p.m. Thursday
Nixon will tour West Florissant Avenue area this afternoon, meet with press at UMSL
Misouri Gov. Jay Nixon will take a tour of the the area where rioting and protests have taken place since Micheal Brown was shot and killed by a police officer on Saturday. He is touring the area without media. At 3 p.m. he is scheduled to take questions from the press at the J.C. Penney Conference Center on the campus of University of Missouri-St. Louis.
– Kevin McDermott at 12:50 p.m. Thursday
Town and Country Rep. urges Nixon to declare state of emergency, impose curfew
House Majority Leader John Diehl, R-Town and Country, said today that Gov. Jay Nixon should declare a state of emergency in Ferguson and impose a curfew in the St. Louis County “corridor” that has seen violence.
“Whether it’s eight o’clock or nine o’clock, whenever it hits, law-abiding people would know they need to be off the street at that time,” Diehl said in an interview. “Curfews are routinely and legitimately used as a law enforcement technique in situations like this.
– Virginia Young at 1:20 p.m. Thursday
Ferguson situation creates rift between St. Louis city and county police
The militarized police response to protests in Ferguson has become so divisive that it has driven a rare wedge between two forces that often work closely together – the two largest police departments in the area – St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the St. Louis County Police.
Terry Kennedy, alderman of the 18th Ward, emailed St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson on Wednesday night to discourage him from sending city police officers into Ferguson. A copy of the email exchange was posted on Twitter by community activist John Chasnoff; Dotson could not immediately be reached, but Kennedy confirmed it was authentic.
Kennedy wrote to Dotson: “The possibility of having St. Louis Police Department personnel present with the Ferguson Police in what appears to be a racially-charged and possibly discriminating environment could make it appear that the St. Louis Police Department supports racial discrimination and disenfranchisement.”
Dotson’s response: “I agree and removed our tactical assistance. We did not send tactical resources to Ferguson on Tuesday or Wednesday. Our only assistance was that of four traffic officers to help divert traffic and keep both pedestrians and motorists safe. On Thursday we will have no officers assisting Ferguson.”
Dotson said in an interview this afternoon that he does not support the county police tactics in Ferguson, and has decided to keep his officers in the city.
He said he made the decision earlier this week, long before the confrontation between police and protesters on Wednesday night that saw officers responding to the protests on armored vehicles carrying military weapons.
“My gut told me what I was seeing were not tactics that I would use in the city and I would never put officers in situations that I would not do myself,” he said.
– Jeremy Kohler at 12:45 p.m. Thursday with updates
Hacker group claims it has name of cop who killed Brown
The hacker group Anonymous has released the name of the person it says is the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown.
The Post-Dispatch has not been able to verify the information. Police and the Ferguson mayor have both said the name Anonymous has released is wrong.
Twitter suspended the account that Anonymous was using to release the information.
Twitter suspended the account of the Anonymous-associated operative who released the name of the officer. The person or persons tweeting under the handle @TheAnonMessage confirmed via email that the account was suspended, “for practicing free speech,” the person wrote.
He said Anonymous indeed was responsible for the St. Louis County web crash.
– David Hunn at 11:15 a.m. with updates.
St. Louis alderman released from jail
St. Louis Alderman Antonio French emerged Thursday morning from a night in jail after his arrest at the Ferguson protests to say that the police officers’ “heavy-handed” approach on the streets is making the situation worse.
French said police pulled him from his car Wednesday night and arrested him. Police say he didn’t listen to their orders to disperse. Police gave him no documentation that says why he was arrested. He was released about 7 a.m. today without having to post any bail.
French said he should never have been locked up, nor should the dozen or so others at the jail overnight.
“Inside that jail is nothing but peacekeepers,” he said. “They rounded up the wrong people … reverends, young people organizing the peace effort.”
Police arrested about a dozen people Wednesday night, including French and Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly.
Police used tear gas and sonic cannons to disperse the crowds. Today, President Obama will mention the Ferguson troubles in a speech. Also today, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is scheduled to visit Ferguson in the wake of the growing protests.
“The worsening situation in Ferguson is deeply troubling, and does not represent who we are as Missourians or as Americans,” Nixon said in a statement.
As French walked out of the Ferguson Jail this morning, he wore his signature oxford button-down shirt — slightly wrinkled from sleeping in it on a jail cot, and with a burnt orange color on the shoulder from where a fellow inmate had wiped his eyes from the burning tear gas.
French talked with reporters about his experience. He said he was near the burned-out QuikTrip on West Florissant Avenue at about 9 p.m. Wednesday when police in riot gear ordered protesters to disperse. Several hundred people were there.
“Police had just given a final warning to disperse and released smoke bombs, people scattered and ran,” French said. “Police started to move forward with riot gear and tear gas started to come.”
“I moved away when it looked like they were throwing what I thought was tear gas … it turned out to be smoke bombs,” French added. “I realized the best place (to be was in my) car with the windows rolled up. That’s where I was.”
He said he was in car recording video of what was happening outside. When the line of police officers came to French’s car door, an officer opened the door and pulled him out, French said. French asked why, and the officer told him, “Because you didn’t listen.”
When a reporter asked French today how he went from being in his car to being arrested, he said: “They open your door and drag you out.”
“They just rounded up anybody they could see,” he said.
He had no complaints about the way the officer treated him, other than how securely the officer wrapped his wrist with the plastic handcuffs.
“I don’t think I was mistreated,” he said. “The roughest things were those zip ties … pretty tight.”
He said he was treated well inside the jail and offered a honey bun at 6 a.m. for breakfast, which he declined. He was told he’d be held 24 hours on a charge of unlawful assembly, but then he was inexplicably released without bail or any paperwork at 7 a.m.
French is in his first term as alderman of the 21st Ward in St. Louis. His ward includes the Mark Twain, Penrose and O’Fallon neighborhoods. After the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson on Saturday afternoon, French has been attending protests and rallies, posting updates on social media.
French said he will continue to document the protests and police response as long as the protesters are on the streets. He wasn’t able to post anything for the nine hours he was in jail because they took his phone from him. At 8 a.m., French said he was ready to log back in. “I’ve gotta find a charger somewhere,” he joked.
He said he was also heading to an ATM to get cash to bail out two of his staffers who were arrested after being pulled from their cars. Police told his staffers, two women, that they were arrested for a noise violation, French said.
“In an American city, people are being tear-gassed and snipers are pointing rifles at them,” he said. “Everybody should be upset … heavy-handed police approach is actually making the situation worse.
“Before they arrived heavy-handedly, it was a peaceful situation.”
French said the city is wrong to try to limit protests to daylight-only.
“We have a right to protest 24 hours a day,” French said. “Our constitutional rights don’t expire at 9 p.m.”
– Kim Bell, 7:25 a.m. Thursday
Twitter hashtag calls for moment of silence to honor victims of police brutality
The hashtag #NMOS14 has been gaining speed on Twitter. The tag stands for “National Moment of Silence” and is intended to honor victims of police brutality, according to people who have been using it. Twitter users are using the hashtag in tweets to plan gatherings and rallies. (Hashtags are used in tweets to create easily searchable words or phrases.)
The moment of silence vigil will start at 6 p.m., according to a Facebook page for the event.
– Beth O’Malley at 10:40 a.m.
ACLU sues St. Louis County for police reports
The American Civil Liberties Union sued St. Louis County and the county police this morning to obtain copies of initial police reports surrounding the fatal shooting of Mike Brown by Ferguson police.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit in St. Louis County Circuit Court after their open records request for the initial incident report of the shooting was rejected by police Wednesday, the suit says.
– Robert Patrick, 11:30 a.m. Thursday
Libertarian Party says police should stand down in Ferguson
The National Libertarian Party said in a statement that America’s war on drugs is frequently used to justify police who accost minorities engaged in peaceful behavior.
“This may have been what precipitated the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown over the weekend, leading to riots and another shooting on Wednesday,” the statement said. “Although all the facts of this case are not yet known, the War on Drugs can be blamed for breeding the tension and resentment that has led to the dangerous rioting we now see in Ferguson.”
“The militarization of our domestic police forces must end,” said Nicholas Sarwark, chair of the Libertarian National Committee.
Unrest in Ferguson impacting businesses
Sales are off by $6,000 this week at the Papa John’s Pizza on West Florrisant, in Dellwood, four blocks from the burned-out QuikTrip in Ferguson, said a store manager, who halted late-night deliveries this week because of the unrest in the area.
“I think that drivers are scared because it’s just crazy,” said the manager, who declined to be identified.
Papa John’s normally delivers pizzas until midnight but has closed five hours earlier each night this week. Protesters have caused no damage at the shop but the manager said she was threatened over the phone on Monday.
“They told me I should get beat up because I’m white,” the manager said.
Early closings this week have cost Papa John’s workers about $1,000 in wages, said the manager, adding that all the affected employees live in Ferguson and neighboring Jennings. – Tim Bryant at noon
National news organizations condemn treatment of journalists
The American Society of News Editors, based in Columbia, Mo., released a statement this morning on the arrests of the two journalists and the police handling of events in Ferguson last night.
“From police physically assaulting citizens engaged in peaceful protest to arresting without cause reporters from The Washington Post and The Huffington Post, it is clear that there is a concerted, top-down effort to restrict the fundamental First Amendment rights of the public and the press,” the release said.
ASNE President David Boardman said, “From the beginning of this situation, the police have made conscious decisions to restrict information and images coming from Ferguson….Of course, these efforts largely have been unsuccessful, as the nation and the world are still seeing for themselves the heinous actions of the police. For every reporter they arrest, every image they block, every citizen they censor, another will still write, photograph and speak.”
Later, the Associated Press Media Editors association and the National Association of Black Journalists also released a statement in partnership with ASNE on the same issue.
“The withholding of information by law enforcement, the unlawful detainment of journalists and the censoring of the unfolding story is unacceptable,” said APME President Debra Adams Simmons. “We join with ASNE in calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to protect the First Amendment rights of everyone involved.”
Two reporters were arrested Wednesday night while covering the situation in Ferguson. One of them, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery, is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.
“Journalists have a constitutionally protected right to work without the government interference,” NABJ President Bob Butler said. “We call on — and fully expect — the authorities to investigate what appears to be a violation of the First Amendment and to hold the officers involved to account, if necessary.”
– Nancy Cambria at 11:05 a.m. with updates
Police suspect hackers took down county websites
St. Louis county government websites have been down since Wednesday and officials are trying to find out why. Police think it is the work of Anonymous, an international group of unnamed computer hackers.
In an email to the Post-Dispatch, an Anonymous-associated operative took credit for the county computer hack.
Police say they are aware of the problem but don’t know the extent of it. The St. Louis County government website, the police website, parks and revenue are among those that weren’t coming up this morning.
A county source says they have limited access to external email and internet.
A woman at the county executive’s office said she was able to access the website internally this morning after 8 a.m. but would report the troubles for others trying to get on the websites to the county’s IT staff. A parks employee said they are working on the problem and that “sometimes they’re up and sometimes they’re down.”
In the hours after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer on Saturday, the group Anonymous urged residents to the streets.
Ferguson’s city website went dark Tuesday morning and the phones died. Anonymous also started releasing information about police officers.
And the hackers vowed retribution if police harmed protesters.
“We are watching you very closely,” Anonymous’ distinctive electronic voice rasped in a video posted Monday on Twitter. “If you abuse, harass or harm the protesters in Ferguson we will take every Web-based asset of your departments and federal agencies offline.” – Kim Bell, Joel Currier and Steve Giegerich at 8 a.m. with updates
NAACP demands Attorney General take action in Ferguson
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. called on Attorney General Eric Holder this morning to take immediate action to address the unjustified use of lethal and excessive force against unarmed African Americans by police forces throughout the country.
“The recent killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Ezell Ford, like the killings and beatings of other unarmed African Americans by police officers, are unconscionable,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “The depravity demonstrated by law enforcement in these recent events must be met with immediate reform.”
“Today we call upon the Department of Justice to undertake a comprehensive federal review of each instance of excessive police violence against African Americans,” Ifill said. “All involved officers and other public servants must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
– Nancy Cambria at 11:20 a.m.
Business, civic leaders decry unrest in Ferguson
St. Louis business leaders are denouncing violence and police actions in Ferguson following the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown last Saturday.
Maxine Clark, founder of the Build-A-Bear Workshop, started the chain of 400 retail stores in Overland and retired as CEO last year. Wednesday night, after two national reporters covering the Ferguson story were arrested while inside a McDonald’s, on her Twitter account @ChiefExecBear, Clark Tweeted to her nearly 6,000 followers: “REALLY???? Arresting visitors/news at McD?? This is not the STL I know and love. Stop! This behavior is absurd and unnecessary.”
Clark’s other Tweets reference the worldwide spotlight now on the region, including this Tweet from Wednesday: “Three conf. calls today & everyone asked ‘what is going on in STL?’ These aren’t proud moments. Someone tell Ferg Police honesty matters!”
Chris Sommers, owner of the Pi Pizzeria chain in St. Louis, also has been active on social media throughout the week, mostly retweeting news accounts of the unfolding events in Ferguson on his Twitter account, @sommerscm, to his more than 800 followers. Sommers said the protests following Brown’s death have been mishandled by authorities. “It’s devastating to our town,” said Sommers, who’s opened six Pi restaurants in the region since 2008. “Many of us have been working really hard to build our city back up, and the St. Louis County and Ferguson police are undoing that in a manner of days.”
Sommers has two new Pi restaurants opening in Miami and Cincinnati, and said the current unrest here and the attention it’s garnering worldwide will have a negative impact the region’s economy for a long time. “It’s going to suffer,” Sommers said. “I’m grateful that our immediate expansion is not in the St. Louis area. I would certainly think twice about an investment here now. What’s infuriating is a lack of leadership and the result of that is a devastation to the economy.”
Lisa Brown, 9:55 a.m. Thursday
Vigil planned tonight in St. Louis
A vigil is planned in downtown St. Louis city this evening to commemorate Michael Brown and other victims of police-involved shootings. The National Moment of Silence vigil will be held at Luther Ely Smith Square, between the main Arch grounds and the Old Courthouse, said a representative with the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.
A local Twitter user, @TheMegaChloe, has been instrumental in organizing the vigil. Several similar vigils are planned for cities around the country, according to tweets using the hashtag #NMOS14. – Beth O’Malley at 10:30 a.m.
OUR EARLIER STORY
Law enforcement officials on Wednesday asked for patience to allow the investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown to take its course as tension over the teenager’s death continued for a fifth straight day.
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said his office will take as much time as necessary to review circumstances that led a Ferguson police officer to fatally shoot the 18-year-old Brown on a street Saturday afternoon.
“The timeline on this is there is no timeline,” McCulloch told an afternoon news conference. “We will do this as expeditiously as possible. But we won’t rush.”
Resisting pressure from street demonstrators and public officials for answers that show why the unnamed officer confronted Brown and a companion shortly after noon on Saturday, McCulloch said the details may not emerge until the process of collecting evidence and presenting it to the grand jury is complete.
“I know that’s not the answer anybody wants to hear at this point,” he said. “Everybody wants to know what happened.”
McCulloch called the problem twofold. First, he said, ethical rules prevent prosecutors from disseminating the physical evidence. He also said he won’t do anything to corrupt the integrity of the investigation.
In response to a reporter’s question, McCulloch said it will certainly take more than two weeks to complete the investigation. He offered no specific estimate of the timetable. He cited a heavy volume of information that is being gathered in the case.
“We want to test the veracity and accuracy of anybody who comes to us,” McCulloch said.
McCulloch said a lot of information has come forward through social media, “some of it good, some of it bad.”
He stressed that the medical examiner’s report, 911 tapes and other investigative material will be withheld at this point.
One new detail of Saturday’s shooting did emerge Wednesday when Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson in another news conference said the officer who shot Brown suffered facial injuries and was taken to a hospital.
Jackson also acknowledged that mending the strained relationship between his department and the African-American community is imperative for the city and region to move ahead following nearly a week of outrage, violence and looting.
“We have always had real good relations with all of the neighborhood associations,” Jackson said. “Apparently, there’s been this undertow that now has bubbled to the surface, and it’s our first priority to address it, to fix what’s wrong.”
The first step, he added, is working with the community relations office on race relations that the U.S. Justice Department has dispatched to Ferguson.
The chief defended the racial makeup of the Ferguson department. Three of the agency’s 53 officers are African-American in a community where two-thirds of the population is black.
Jackson said he has worked to improve the diversity of the police department, adding it is a “constant struggle to hire and retain personnel.”
In the past few years, Jackson said, he has tried not only to recruit but improve quality of life in the department, including pay levels, to retain officers longer.
The comments from law enforcement in a week that has seen forums, prayer vigils and a clergy-led parade Wednesday that passed many of the looted West Florissant Avenue businesses did little to quell the outrage spawned by Brown’s death.
As has been the case since Monday, the parking lot of a QuikTrip looted and burned Sunday evening has been the epicenter of hostility between protesters and police.
The animosity for the most part was verbal Wednesday until a thrown bottle prompted police to fire smoke bombs at the crowd shortly before 9 p.m.
When police then ordered demonstrators to evacuate the area or face arrest the protesters responded that “we are not going anywhere.”
Police a short time later chased protesters into nearby neighborhoods after dispersing the crowd for the third straight night with tear gas grenades.
On Wednesday, police also used piercing-sound sonic cannons to scatter the crowd.
As they have since Saturday, demonstrators throughout the evening taunted and threatened police.
“If I’m going to go, I’m taking one of you with me,” warned one demonstrator.
Another shouted, “We’re not dogs, so what the hell you’ve got those whipping sticks for? Because you want to whip us like dogs.”
A county police tactical operations armored vehicle was deployed at the demonstration site for most of the night.
Protected by body armor, police sat atop the vehicle methodically fitting high-caliber automatic weapons into tripods which were then trained on the crowd.
“You are being ordered to leave now!” police announced frequently through a public address system. “If you don’t leave peacefully there will be arrests.”
The crowd ignored the demand until the tear gas was fired.
As of midnight there were reports of sporadic gunfire.
At 2 a.m., several dozen police officers riding inside and on three armored tactical vehicles pulled up in front of the Ferguson police station. Forming a skirmish line, they faced the last of the night’s protesters, a group of about 100 gathered across the street on the parking lot of the Andy Wurm Tire & Wheel shop.
A booming voice from a police loudspeaker ordered the crowd to disperse.
The protesters complied but not before some of them cursed the cops.
But 2:15 a.m., a tense quiet had fallen over Ferguson.
Prosecutors filed felony charges Wednesday against a man shot by police in a confrontation earlier in the day near the scene of the protests.
Esrail Britton, 19, was charged with second-degree assault on a law enforcement officer and armed criminal action. He remained hospitalized, and earlier in the day was reported to be in critical condition.
Officials said they have two addresses for Britton, both of them vacant dwellings in the St. Louis area.
The shooting occurred about 1 a.m. at West Florissant Avenue and Chambers Road, in an unincorporated area of St. Louis County, as county police responded to a report of four of five men with masks and shotguns in an area where shots were heard.
ALDERMAN French, JOURNALISTS ARRESTED
St. Louis Alderman Antonio French was among about 10 people arrested Wednesday night.
French was being held at the Ferguson Police Department but no details of his arrest were being released.
Wesley Lowery, a reporter with the Washington Post, was arrested Wednesday evening along with Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post, according to a Twitter post by Lowery.
He wrote that police came into the McDonald’s on West Florissant where the two were working, and tried “to kick everyone out.”
“Officers decided we weren’t leaving McDonald’s quickly enough, shouldn’t have been taping them,” he tweeted.
“Officers slammed me into a fountain soda machine because I was confused about which door they were asking me to walk out of,” he wrote.
He said that he was detained, booked, “given answers to no questions. Then just let out.”
Reilly tweeted that a SWAT team invaded the McDonald’s where he was working and recharging his phone, and asked for identification when he took a photo. They tried to kick everyone out, he wrote. He wrote that he was “assaulted” by an officer.
SCHOOL START DELAYED
The continuing unrest forced the Ferguson-Florissant school district to postpone the start of school from today to Monday.
“In order to allow additional time for the situation to stabilize and for all of our students and their families to resume normal routines, we will reschedule the first day of school,” district officials said in a statement. “We believe that this change will help ensure a strong start to the new school year.”
Paul Hampel, Stephen Deere, Valerie Schremp Hahn, Joel Currier, Kim Bell, Koran Addo, Ken Leiser, Jessica Bock and Steve Giegerich of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.
Tense moments between members of crowd
After the bigger crowds dispersed, some members of the crowd began to fight among themselves. At one point, at about 11:15 p.m., about two dozen people stood around at Lang Drive and West Florissant Avenue, near the Quik Trip site. A German shepherd traipsed through the crowd, with a leash on, but with nobody holding it. People began shouting about the dog, and the owner eventually found the dog and took the leash.
The owner appeared to be intoxicated, and about three or four men surrounded him, telling him to let his dog go. The man refused and tried to walk away. Suddenly, one of the men hit the man with the dog hard in the chest. Some from the crowd shouted, “Let’s shoot this dog and knock this guy out!”
The man with the dog started walking away, and the crowd shouted out.
Police, who had returned to the original protest line closer to the gas station, arrived on the scene and trained a spotlight down Lang. Somebody picked up an unexploded sound canister and threw it towards officers, and the canister exploded, spewing smoke. Police got out of their patrol cars and ran, continuing their chase into the dark neighborhood.
The crowd stood watching, holding their hands in the air.
–Stephen Deere, 11:57 p.m.
Police dispense tear gas into crowd
Shortly after 9 p.m., police dispensed tear gas at the crowd standing on West Florissant Avenue. About 50 demonstrators stood in the middle of the street near the Quik Trip, with several hundred people on the side streets.
After giving people several verbal warnings to leave the area or face arrest, somebody hurled a bottle at the police line. Police then threw more than a dozen sound canisters at the crowds. The canisters exploded close to people, emitted a loud boom and smoke and sparks. They made an ear-splitting noise.
Some people picked up the canisters and threw them back at police. Then the police deployed tear gas.
One young woman screamed to fleeing members of the crowd not to be cowards. “We have to stand and fight here right now!” she screamed.
Police inched closer and closer to the crowd until they dispersed into side streets. The protesters were reduced to several small, scattered pockets, talking quietly among themselves.
Some people had no way to get home.
Body released to family
Authorities released Michael Brown’s body to his family on Wednesday. Funeral arrangements were pending at the Austin A. Layne Mortuary.
-Michael Sorkin, 5 p.m.
Officer who shot Michael Brown has retained attorney
The officer who shot Michael Brown has retained a lawyer.
– Robert Patrick, 2:45 p.m.
Daytime-only rallies and protests please, Ferguson says
Ferguson city leaders are trying to stem the riots by urging anyone who wants to protest the shooting death of Michael Brown to assemble only during daylight hours.
Mayor James Knowles III and the Ferguson City Council posted the request on the city website, following several nights of unrest.
The announcement says the city mourns the loss of Brown and wants to give people an opportunity to “voice frustrations through prayer vigils and peaceful protests.”
It goes on to say: “We ask that any groups wishing to assemble in prayer or in protest do so only during daylight hours in an organized and respectful manner.” Participants should disperse well before the evening hours, the city says.
“Unfortunately, those who wish to co-opt peaceful protests and turn them into violent demonstrations have been able to do so over the past several days during the evening hours,” the city says. “These events are not indicative of the City of Ferguson and its residents.”
The city leaders’ post says Ferguson has been through tough situations before — “albeit nothing to this magnitude, but will continue to display resilience and fortitude.”
-Kim Bell, noon
Surveillance of St. Louis shoe store looting released; gas station also hit
St. Louis police have released video of the looting of a Shoe Carnival store in a shopping center on Gravois Avenue in St. Louis shortly before midnight Monday.
St. Louis police also are investigating a break-in at a Phillips 66 gas station and convenience store in Lafayette Square early Tuesday.
Police are asking anyone with information to call CrimeStoppers at 1-866-371-8477.
– Ken Leiser, 1:30 p.m.