Scores arrested in riots over Ferguson ruling

Decision not to charge police officer over death of unarmed black teenager prompts protests in several cities across US.

At least 61 people have been arrested in Ferguson and surrounding areas overnight as protests grew violent after a grand jury decision in the US against indicting a white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, in August.

Police in St Louis County, Missouri, released the arrest records early on Tuesday, which showed charges including burglary, trespassing and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Al Jazeera’s Daniel Lak reporting from Ferguson
“I’ve covered riots and unrest in many countries and this was far from the worst I’ve seen. 
Also, I was impressed, at least in the few areas I was able to observe, by the restraint shown by police. At least in comparison to what went on here in August. 
There was no repeat of the military-style tactics, police dressed as soldiers and carrying infantry rifles.
I saw some armoured vehicles but where I was at least, they didn’t drive at protesters in a threatening manner. They hung back behind police lines.  
Of course this is just the first hours of what could be an ongoing situation.
But talking to people who live here, angry as they are at the grand jury decision, most seem to want peaceful protests on both sides.  
As one woman said to us during the evening “looting and burning don’t help us tell the world how bad things are here. They just make it look like our fault. It’s not our fault. We shouldn’t have to live this way. Michael Brown should still be alive.” 

Wilson shot Brown 12 times according to evidence presented to the grand jury, with witness reports differing as to whether and when Brown had raised his hands.

Angry protesters overran barricades and taunted police in Ferguson, with some chanting “murderer” and others throwing stones and bottles, as police car windows were smashed and protesters tried to set vehicles ablaze.

Officers responded by firing smoke and pepper spray into the crowd, as some onlookers tried to stop others from taking part in the violence.

Brown’s mother cried when she heard the verdict, and had to be taken away by supporters.

Brown’s family released a statement saying they were “profoundly disappointed” but asked that the public “channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change.”

The protests spread throughout other parts of the US on Monday night, despite calls for calm by President Barack Obama.

Activists held demonstrations in New York, Chicago, Washington and Greensboro, North Carolina.

In Oakland, California, marchers shut down the 580 freeway in both directions, carrying banners that read “Arrest Darren Wilson”.

Wilson was the officer involved in the shooting.

Speaking in New York, civil rights activist Al Sharpton condemned the grand jury’s decision.

“It was expected but still an absolute blow to those of us that wanted to see a fair and open trial,” he said.

“I think that it is clear that even when you see a blow coming that you expected, it still hurts none the less.

“We can lose a round but the fight is not over. Thank you.”

Shortly after the decision, the hashtag #HandsupDontSpend started trending on Twitter, encouraging people not to take part in America’s “Black friday” sales in protest against the lack of indictment.


Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett, reporting from Washington, said the decision had created a tremendous public outcry.

“There is certainly a feeling of disbelief for many here in the US,” she said.

“There is also concern about the possible lack of objectivity in the decision because of the racial makeup of the jury.”

“Obama is not the president of black America.”

Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch said the jury of nine whites and three blacks met on 25 separate days over three months, hearing more than 70 hours of testimony from about 60 witnesses, including three medical examiners and experts on blood, toxicology and firearms.

“They are the only people that have heard and examined every witness and every piece of evidence,” he said, adding that the jurors “poured their hearts and soul into this process”.

Speaking for nearly 45 minutes, McCulloch cited what he said were inconsistencies and erroneous witness accounts.

McCulloch never mentioned that Brown was unarmed when he was killed on August 9.

Shortly after the announcement, authorities released more than 1,000 pages of grand jury documents, including Wilson’s testimony.

A Federal investigation into the incident is still being carried out.

Violence condemned 

Officials condemned the violent nature of the protests, with John Belmar, St Louis Police Chief, telling Al Jazeera the demonstrations were “probably much worse than the worse night we ever had in August”.

Some of the evidence presented to the grand jury:
  • Michael Brown was shot 12 times by officer. The final shot fired hit the top of his head.
  • The results of all the autopsies on Brown’s body were consistent with each other.
  • The Missouri Prosecutor said some witnesses’ testimony was discredited by the physical evidence available.

Police in Ferguson used smoke canisters and trucks to force waves of violent protesters down the street away from the police building soon after sporadic gunshots were heard. Flames from a burning car rose into the night sky.

Whistles pierced the air as some of the hundreds of protesters tried to keep the peace, shouting, “Don’t run, don’t run.”

Police who formed a wall of clear riot shields outside the precinct were pelted with bottles and cans as the crowd surged up and down the street immediately after authorities said the grand jury had voted not to indict Wilson.

“Murderers, you’re nothing but murderers,” protesters in the crowd shouted. One woman, speaking through a megaphone said, “Stinking murderers.”

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Dante Barry, executive director of Million Hoodies for Justice, said the protesters were “rightfully angry”.

“There is this misconception that we are living in a post-racial society. Even with a black president, it [police killings of African Americans] is still happening under his watch.

“What you’re seeing tonight is folks expressing frustration and it’s rightfully so.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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