Ferguson, Mo.: Monday night, a grand jury declined to indict Ferguson, Mo., police Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson on Aug. 9.
In advance of the announcement of the grand jury decision, media, protesters, members of the clergy and organizations in support of the Justice for Mike Brown movement waited anxiously outside the Ferguson Police Department building for the ruling. Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, who had been informed of the verdict, arrived a few minutes before St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch made the announcement.
In tears, frustration and anger, McSpadden addressed the crowd and said, “Everybody wants me to be calm. Do you know how [those] bullets hit my son? What they did to his body as they entered his body?” She added, “I have been living here my whole life; I have never had to go through anything like this.”
She was surrounded by several people who held and hugged her. When McCulloch concluded his conference, protesters immediately responded, chanting, “No justice, no peace!” Some shouted, “Burn it down!”
And many expressed that they were not surprised by the outcome, including Anthony Merri, 38. “Nothing has changed from 1853. This is the city of Dred Scott,” he told The Root. “African Americans, Latinos and others who do not fit the status quo cannot get [their] rights, and that was definitely displayed today.”
At one point Monday night, on the south end of South Florissant Road in Ferguson, an unidentified individual fired a gun toward the north end of the street and then fled. Shortly thereafter, several people tried to flip over a St. Louis County police car, shattered its windows, then set it on fire. In response, the police fired smoke or tear gas at protesters before announcing that demonstrators were involved in an “unlawful protest.” At that point, those who were protesting peacefully—who were the majority of the crowd—began to disperse and leave the Florissant area.
Danielle Hines, 25, who had previously participated in protests on West Florissant Avenue and downtown St. Louis, mentioned that she is very disappointed but knew what the result would be from day one. Hines emphasized that she is not a racist person but believes that “in this country, white will always win, no matter what the circumstances.” She added, “We’re black in America, they don’t care about us. That’s just how it is; they don’t care.”
Later, at the north end of South Florissant, a trash can was engulfed in flames, and windows of several local businesses were shattered and doors broken on their storefronts. Protesters looted and trashed several businesses, including beauty supply store Beauty World, a hardware store and a bakery. A church, a Little Caesars restaurant and a storage facility were all burned or nearly burned to the ground.
Celebrity Restaurant owner Steve Moore, 49, says he has operated his soul food buffet in Ferguson for more than 15 years. Moore mentioned that what has been done to the businesses in the area is sad, but he described it as an attempt to get the attention of government officials. “It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Right now this is just the beginning of the statement that they are going to put out there,” he said.
Moore said he understands the anger and frustration of the community, observing, “I wish that the indictment could have been handled other ways and think that Bob McCulloch was overcocky. I don’t think he had remorse and was a bit happy [about] the nonindictment.” He added, “I think McCulloch and a lot of other people are going to cause the community more harm and damage.”
As for the future of Ferguson and the town’s ability to heal and rebuild, Moore stated that the system is going to have to change drastically and involve residents of this predominantly African-American city. He told The Root, “It’s going to take changing the whole local government, period—the Police Department, everything. [We] have to just tear everything down and start all over.”