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Police And Protesters Clash Over Curfew In Ferguson


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. The governor of Missouri declared a state of emergency yesterday in Ferguson and assumed - and imposed - a curfew on the town. It's been just over a week since an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, was killed by a police officer in Ferguson. Vigorous protests have roiled the town since this shooting. They have sometimes turned violent at night and looters have struck a number of businesses. Many protesters supported the curfew as a way to stop destructive behavior. But some vowed to break it as a sign of solidarity with Michael Brown.

FRANK MORRIS, BYLINE: People in Ferguson had been complaining that the governor hadn't been doing enough, but when Jay Nixon showed up at church yesterday afternoon to announce a state of emergency and a curfew, the news was not exactly what people were expecting. Angry residents let loose on the governor and gathered law enforcement.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: If Mike Brown shot a cop, he would be in jail.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: That's right.

MORRIS: News of the curfew inflamed an already testy atmosphere. Friday, police had released a video implicating Brown in a robbery that occurred just minutes before he was killed. By last night, the tension was running high.

MORRIS: Earlier in the night, the atmosphere was peaceful as protesters gathered on the street. But that atmosphere became ominous as the curfew loomed.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: It is currently 11:50. We have 10 minutes before they start moving down.

MORRIS: Hundreds of police officers massing nearby. Amnesty International and other monitoring groups - smattering of the international press corps - were on hand to see what would happen when all those police rolled on the protesters. Community leaders who had been rallying the aggrieved African-American population here tried to calm the most passionate among them.

PASTOR ROBERT WHITE: Excuse me, ladies. Y'all ready to talk to them?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: You give respect, you get respect.

WHITE: Y'all going home - right? - real soon.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Yeah, we going home.

WHITE: All right. I ain't going to see when y'all when I come back.

MORRIS: Pastor Robert White appealed to protester's common sense.

WHITE: We're convincing everybody to go home who's listening because it's raining. And it's going to rain bullets and guns and bloodshed if they don't be careful.

MORRIS: Others, like Malik Zulu Shabazz with the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, couched the warning as a tactical retreat.

MALIK ZULU SHABAZZ: We are not all favorable to rain tonight. We don't have enough guns. We don't have no tear gas masks. We don't have what we need to fight. So we pull back, and we come back tomorrow.

MORRIS: But a lot of people were still spoiling for a fight when midnight - and the curfew - struck.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: It's midnight. Let's get it. Let's get it.

MORRIS: Police gave the protesters almost an hour to let off steam before closing in on them.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: This is the police department. You are violating the state-imposed curfew. You must continue to disperse peacefully....

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: You violate our civil rights.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: ...Or you will be subject to arrest.

MORRIS: Earlier in the day, the State Highway Patrol Captain in charge of policing operation here had promised that teargas and military weapons would not be used to enforce the curfew. But the police came led by armored trucks flanked with officers armed for combat and made their way toward the protesters.


MORRIS: As teargas choked protestors and stung their eyes, a mass dispersal happened. One person was shot and wound up in critical condition. Police say the victim wasn't shot by anyone in uniform. Several people were arrested. Antonio French, a St. Louis Alderman who was arrested at protests Wednesday night, says despite the clashes, last night it turned out better than it might have.

ANTONIO FRENCH: There have been a lot of freedoms curtailed this week, a lot of civil liberties violated this week. I think tonight was not necessarily one of those. I think this was a community agreed-upon curfew. I think it's best if the community takes a little time out.

MORRIS: And the protesters say they'll keep coming until they get what they feel is a measure of justice for Michael Brown. For NPR News, I'm Frank Morris in Ferguson, Missouri. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Morris has supervised the reporters in KCUR's newsroom since 1999. In addition to his managerial duties, Morris files regularly with National Public Radio. He’s covered everything from tornadoes to tax law for the network, in stories spanning eight states. His work has won dozens of awards, including four national Public Radio News Directors awards (PRNDIs) and several regional Edward R. Murrow awards. In 2012 he was honored to be named "Journalist of the Year" by the Heart of America Press Club.