FERGUSON, Mo. — Following the announcement that a grand jury had chosen not to indict a Missouri police officer who fatally shot a teenager this past August, violence erupted on the streets of Ferguson, with angry rioters setting fires, looting and destroying area businesses.
Rioters gathered around a police car and sought to overturn the vehicle, and later succeeded in setting it on fire, destroying it completely. Another police vehicle was also stated to be lit just a block away. Businesses such as Little Caesar’s and an unidentified beauty salon were likewise soon engulfed in flames after being set on fire by the crowds.
“Storage facility and Sam’s Meat Market near W. Florissant and Canfield have been set on fire in Ferguson,” the St. Louis County Police Department Tweeted late tonight.
Other stores and restaurants, such as McDonalds and Walgreens, saw their windows smashed, and looters ran inside to take what goods they could run off with without being stopped. One liquor store was also broken into, as some grabbed bottles of alcohol and took off down the street. Some posted photographs on Twitter of the rioting, including those who posed for the camera while ransacking area businesses.
On the streets, some protesters taunted police officers, throwing bottles and rocks at them while shouting profanities. Many officers dressed in riot gear, wearing bullet proof vests and holding plastic shields, and some used tear gas and pepper spray in an attempt to control the crowds or force them to disperse. Police reports state that law enforcement used smoke pellets first to deal with the rioters, but turned to tear gas after it did not seem to be effective.
Police threatened some with arrest if they did not get out of the street. An estimated 600 demonstrators filled Ferguson, and Interstate 44 was shut down due to the violence.
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon called in the National Guard over the matter, and the FAA listed a no-fly zone over the area.
The violence followed an announcement at approximately 8 p.m. local time by St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch that a grand jury had decided not to indict Ferguson Police Office Darren Wilson on any of the five charges that had been presented against him, from first degree murder to involuntary manslaughter. Wilson had fatally shot teenager Michael Brown in August following a confrontation moments after Brown stole cigarillos from a convenient store.
“These grand jurors poured their hearts and soul into this process,” he said, delivering a detailed 20-minute statement surrounding the various testimonies and pieces of evidence that the jury had to consider surrounding the matter.
“I’m ever mindful that this decision will not be accepted by some and may cause disappointment for others,” McCulloch stated. “But all decisions in the criminal justice system must be determined by the physical and scientific evidence and the credible testimony corroberated by that evidence.”
But while many of Monday’s protesters saw the outcome of the case as racial injustice, others disagree, and opine that it was rather the violent reaction following the decision that was disappointing—but expected.
“I’m not surprised at this at all. These are folks who lack character,” Jesse Lee Peterson, an African American and president of the Christian organization BOND (The Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny) told Christian News Network. “They don’t care about other people. They don’t care about other people’s property. They’re very angry and morally bankrupt.”