A young man was shot by the police and was in critical condition at a hospital, the St. Louis County police chief, Jon Belmar, said early Monday after a day of protests commemorating the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, by a white police officer one year ago.
The New York Times reports that the shooting came after an otherwise peaceful day and as a spontaneous evening demonstration intensified with a line of police officers in riot gear standing off against a small but spirited group of protesters in the middle of the street. About 300 yards away from the protesters, dozens of young people appeared to be hanging out but not demonstrating.
It was from this area that gunfire began ringing out around 11:15 p.m. People scattered and crouched behind cars. Officers drew their weapons.
“Officer-involved shooting,” crackled over police radios.
Chief Belmar began directing his officers toward an abandoned building that used to be a Ponderosa restaurant.
Behind the building, Tony Rice, an activist, said he saw a bloodied, handcuffed young black man splayed on the ground with an officer standing over him. In a video that Mr. Rice posted to Twitter, he can be heard frantically saying to the officer: “Hey, he bleeding. Get him some help, man. Please get him some help. He’s bleeding out, man. You see it. He’s breathing, man. Please get him some help.”
Officers eventually did so, Mr. Rice said, and the young man appeared to be alive when he was placed into an ambulance.
The day started with hundreds of activists gathered around the spot where Mr. Brown was killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, and giving speeches of remembrance and defiance. Mr. Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., led a march to a church, where a service was held.
As nighttime came, a large crowd gathered on West Florissant Avenue, which has been the center of much of the unrest over the past year that stemmed from Mr. Brown’s killing. The crowds appeared to dwindle a bit after heavy thunderstorms swept through the area.
But as the skies cleared, the situation became more intense.
Protesters blocked the road, and the police responded by donning riot gear and ordering them to move with a megaphone.
“This is the Ferguson Police Department,” Sgt. Harry Dilworth, one of the department’s few black officers, said into a megaphone. “You must leave the roadway immediately and remain on the sidewalk or be subject to arrest.”
The demonstrators began venturing off the road and toward the officers, and they started screaming at them.
After the demonstrators had largely cleared out of the street, a caravan of police cars with their sirens came racing down West Florissant, and dozens of officers in riot gear formed a skirmish line. This drew the protesters back into the street, running toward the line.
Amy Hunter, the director of racial justice for the YWCA, stood to the side and shook her head. She said she believed that the police’s racing down the street and forming a skirmish line only provoked the protesters into a staredown in the middle of the road.
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“We learned the last time we did it this way, there was more violence,” she said.
As the protesters chanted in the street and the police held their position, things started to get out of control in the strip mall down the street. People broke through the storefront of a hair salon and began to rob it, said Antonio French, an alderman in St. Louis. A reporter for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch stumbled away with a bloody face and said he had been assaulted and robbed after he tweeted that people were breaking into the stores.
Not long after that, the gunshots rang out from the direction of the strip mall. Mr. French said he ducked behind a sport utility vehicle. He saw a young woman running and told her to come take cover, but, he said, she screamed: “No! No! Where’s my brother?”
“It’s sad and disappointing,” Mr. French said of the evening’s turn of events. “You have some people here who use the cover of this anniversary to commit some violent acts. To see violence happen on this day in this city is really disappointing.”
(The New York Times)
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