Ferguson: Protesters torch cars but fewer arrests, fewer incidents

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After a few hours of relative quiet, a crowd of people turned violent and started vandalizing property in Ferguson. A police car was set on fire. This is now considered an unlawful assembly.

By Moni Basu and Faith Karimi
CNN

FERGUSON, Missouri (CNN – Nov. 26, 2014) — The tension here got thicker with every tick of the clock Tuesday night. But in the end, Ferguson was spared the kind of damage inflicted on it a day earlier.

There were fewer arrests and fewer instances of vandalism. And while there was plenty of anger among its residents, it was channeled in chants and not chaos.

“We were perhaps not optimistic but we were at least hopeful we would have a better night than we had,” said St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar.

To be sure, there were some ugly incidents.

Some rowdy protesters flipped over a police cruiser briefly, broke out its windows and set it on fire. Police moved in quickly to snuff it out.

Police moved in quickly to snuff it out. The acrid smell of pepper spray filled the air. Eyes were burning. Throats were scratching.

Elsewhere, vandals broke windows and trashed businesses, and St. Louis County police said protesters hurled bottles of “what appears to be urine” at them.

A car was set ablaze at a parking lot near Brown’s memorial, but sporadic gunfire in the area stopped officers from responding, said St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar.

Officers said they seized a Molotov cocktail and 44 arrests — far fewer than Monday night when anger and dismay over a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer in the death of an unarmed black teen led to violence unseen in the city since the initial shooting last summer.

“A day before we were kind of on different pages,” Missouri State Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said. “But what what I’m hearing from this community is that we are all on the same page to make our community whole and make sure it stays whole.”

Nationwide protests

Like Ferguson, outrage over the grand jury’s decision escalated from coast to coast, with protests in about 170 cities nationwide.

From New York to Los Angeles and dozens and dozens of cities in between, protesters flooded the streets to denounce the grand jury’s decision. Some demonstrations blocked bridges, tunnels and major highways. But the protests were largely peaceful.

“They have given us no justice! We will give them no peace,” protesters chanted as they massed in front of the Underground Atlanta shopping mall.

In the New York area, they briefly blocked one of the entrances to the Lincoln Tunnel.

“We are on the side of Michael Brown to fight for what is right,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said in front of Brown’s family. “We may have lost round one, but the fight is not over.”

Darren Wilson speaks out

Meanwhile, in his first interview since the fatal shooting, police Officer Darren Wilson maintained that he killed Brown, 18, out of fear for his life during their encounter on August 9.

In the interview with ABC News, he said his response had nothing to do with race.

“I know I did my job right,” he said.

Repeating what he told a grand jury investigating the shooting, Wilson said Brown reached into his police vehicle and grabbed for his gun.

“I just felt the immense power that he had. And then the way I’ve described it is, it was like a 5-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan. That’s just how big this man was,” Wilson said. “He was very large, very powerful man.”

Avoiding a repeat

Back in Ferguson, authorities were determined Tuesday to prevent a repeat of Monday night’s violence.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon ordered additional National Guard troops to the area, boosting their numbers from 700 to 2,200.

“We are not your enemy,” protesters chanted Tuesday night at officers who stood in full riot gear. “We just want justice.”

Veronica Wintersheidt, 29, and her husband braved cold temperatures to show their solidarity.

“We live in a world of white privilege,” she said. “So it’s difficult for us to judge.”

Cleaning up

Earlier in the day, volunteers helped clean up vandalized stores and eateries, and board up broken windows and doors.

Some residents carried guns and said volunteers were out protecting houses on the streets off South Florissant Road.

Armed men carrying assault rifles paced the roof of Beauty World, a store that was badly damaged in Monday’s protests.

Also Tuesday, St. Louis police identified a man who was found shot to death and set on fire.

Belmar told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper that he isn’t discounting the possibility that the death was linked to Monday night’s violence.

Deandre Joshua, 20, was found behind the wheel of a Pontiac in a parking lot, just down the street from Canfield Green Apartments where Brown was killed.

Joshua had been shot in the head, police said. An accelerant was used to light him on fire, but the fire went out on its own, police said. He had burns to his arm, fingers and both legs.

CNN’s Moni Basu reported from Ferguson. CNN’s Sara Sidner, Steve Almasy, Jason Hanna and Evan Perez contributed to this report.

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