Protesters snarled traffic and threw rocks and bottles at police as they marched through dozens of U.S. cities last night, while Ferguson, Missouri, avoided a second day of widespread rioting.
Governor Jay Nixon tripled to 2,200 the number of Missouri National Guard soldiers dispatched to the St. Louis suburb in a bid to prevent a repeat of the mayhem that erupted Nov. 24. A grand jury that day declined to indict the white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.
The troops worked with police in riot gear to quell sporadic violence. Officers seized a Molotov cocktail, two weapons and several bottles that appeared to be filled with urine, said Jon Belmar, chief of the St. Louis County Police Department. The agency had 37 arrests, including seven felonies, and the Missouri Highway Patrol had eight for misdemeanors, according to a news release.
“Generally it was a much better night,” Belmar said at a news conference about 1:30 a.m. local time, after most crowds had begun to disperse. “Officers acted with an incredible amount of discipline tonight and we saw some protesters out there that were really out there for the right reasons.”
In New York, demonstrators briefly closed an entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel and stopped traffic on Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive. In Oakland, California, protesters vandalized businesses and blocked two interstates. Traffic was disrupted in Houston, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Dallas and other cities.
In Ferguson, as midnight approached, authorities deployed noxious gas to disperse a crowd around City Hall, where a police cruiser was flipped on its side and set on fire.
“We continued to ask for calm,” said Lesley McSpadden, Brown’s mother, appearing alongside Michael Brown Sr. today on CBS News’ “This Morning.”
McSpadden criticized comments yesterday on ABC News by Darren Wilson, the officer, who said he had a “clean conscience” and had done his job correctly.
“How could your conscience be clear after killing somebody, even if it was an accidental death?” McSpadden said, and started to cry. “We couldn’t even have my son’s organs donated.”
Some people on the streets of Ferguson yesterday said the violence after the grand jury announcement had been counterproductive. Businesses were looted, buildings torched and police cars set on fire as brawlers ran loose, and television cameras rolled.
“It brings the wrong attention -- period,” said Chester Oglesby, a 36-year-old black bus driver from nearby Normandy as he stood on a Ferguson sidewalk. “They’re saying, ‘We’re going to burn all this stuff down so that we can have a voice.’ But burning stuff down is not a voice.”
Alynne Clay, a 46-year-old nurse, said the chaos inspired her to join a peaceful demonstration in St. Louis. “If all the stores burn down, we don’t eat,” Clay said as she walked with a group of about 100 people. “It makes what they did no different than what we’re out here protesting for.”
Kenny Thomas, 56, took the other side. The images of destruction in Ferguson served a greater good, he said, by sparking more protests around the country and drawing attention to racism, inequality and police brutality.
“We don’t need to stop the violence -- this is a war,” Thomas said, gesturing to about 75 National Guard officers wearing body-length shields on a street in Ferguson. Minutes earlier, a Humvee vehicle had rolled by. “War doesn’t stop until we win.”
Thousands of people participated in marches in New York, crowding Times Square and streets in Brooklyn, shouting, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Taisha Herrera, 36, ventured out with her 10-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter. “I don’t want them growing up being afraid of their skin color,” said Herrera, a tax preparer who is studying business management and lives in the Bronx. “I want them to be able to trust the police.”
In Los Angeles, demonstrations were larger and more confrontational than the night before. Protesters surrounded police cars, overtook a major intersection and tried to shut down Interstate 10, where police threatened them with arrest.
“If we don’t get no justice, they don’t get no peace!” one crowd downtown chanted in a refrain repeated nationwide. They wound through the skyscrapers of the financial district before massing near the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters. Officers stood at the ready behind metal barricades, wearing helmets, as helicopters circled overhead.
The comparatively calmer night in Ferguson came after the Missouri governor vowed to avert the violence that plagued it the night before. Community leaders including Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III had criticized the state’s response to protecting residents and businesses in an economically struggling city where two-thirds of residents are black.
The fallout continued yesterday. The organizer of the annual Thanksgiving Day parade in St. Louis postponed it until an unspecified time later in the holiday season.