It began as a peaceful, quiet night in the St. Louis suburb — the first peaceful night in a while. Just before midnight, though, the situation changed and again violence erupted in Ferguson, Missouri. In a now all-too-familiar scene, tear gas and smoke bombs were fired at protesters by police, after the crowd reportedly became aggressive and looters — reportedly from outside Ferguson — tried to break into several of the city's stores. This time, though, many of the protesters took it upon themselves to protect their city from the violence, standing guard against the looters.
Only a day after demonstrations against police brutality swept across the nation, the situation in Ferguson became unstable once more. From roughly 11:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., the city of Ferguson was once again a picture of violence. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, roughly 200 protestors clashed with police, throwing bottles and rocks at the law enforcers, who responded with smoke bombs and sound cannons. One group of looters seized upon the chaos to loot a beauty shop of hundreds of dollars of goods; others tried to ransack other shops along the main road.
At one point, looters tried to loot the same convenience store that Michael Brown was accused of robbing; with the police reportedly staying away, the other protesters were having none of it. They stood guard themselves and protected the shop from the aggressors. As the night wore on, shop owners began standing with their rifles at the ready.
The move seems like both a reflection of the strong sense of community in Ferguson, and a rapidly growing mistrust of the police forces. Earlier on Friday, Darren Wilson — who has been described by the police chief as a "gentle, quiet man” — was named as the police officer who fatally shot the unarmed teen Michael Brown last Saturday. At the same time, documents and surveillance video alleging that Brown had stolen some cigars earlier that day were likewise made public, though — crucially — the police chief admitted that Brown had not previously been a suspect. The move has been called a "character assassination" by Brown's family, a feeling shared by many.
Said Rep. William Lacy Clay to a crowd of protesters Friday in Ferguson, in reference to the release of the documents:
“They have attempted to taint the investigation. They are trying to influence a jury pool by the stunt they pulled today.”