Tensions Flare Again Between Police, Protestors In Ferguson
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
In Ferguson, Missouri today there is an uneasy peace, after a weekend of tension and protest. A grand jury has not yet decided whether to indict the white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black 18-year-old back in August. Federal and local authorities have been trying to calm the tension set with mixed results.
St. Louis Public Radio's Stephanie Lecci has this update.
STEPHANIE LECCI, BYLINE: More than 150 protesters - the largest crowd of the past week - gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department last night, chanting and banging out rhythms on pots, drums and tambourines.
Demonstrators shouted, indict that cop...
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Indict that cop, indict that cop.
LECCI: ...Referring to Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in August. At one point last night protesters heatedly confronted police in the street, but the night ended relatively peacefully after community leaders and Ferguson police worked to calm tempers. Protesters abided by an 11 p.m. noise ordinance and police arrested half a dozen people, who were later released.
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson had made his own earlier attempt to ease tensions with a scripted video apology to the family of Michael Brown.
(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO APOLOGY)
TOM JACKSON: No one who has not experienced the loss of a child can understand what you're feeling. I am truly sorry for the loss of your son.
LECCI: Chief Jackson also reached out to protesters.
JACKSON: I do want to say to any peaceful protester who did not feel that I did enough to protect their constitutional right to protest, I am sorry for that.
LECCI: He tried to apologize in person to protesters calling for his resignation. Jackson, who is white, spoke to demonstrators, many of them black residents, who had gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department.
JACKSON: We've got to increase training and awareness. We've got to change our fine system.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Nah.
JACKSON: No, seriously. This is where the mistrust has come from, right?
LECCI: But a scuffle broke out when Jackson tried to march alongside protesters. Several arrests were made.
As tensions grew over the weekend so did violence in the area. Two officers were shot at Saturday night. A Ferguson officer was shot in the arm while on duty and an off-duty St. Louis officer was injured by flying glass when his car was hit by gunfire.
But St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said he didn't think the incidents were connected to anger over the Michael Brown shooting.
JON BELMAR: I wouldn't have any reason to believe right now that it was linked in any way, shape, manner or form with the protest. It certainly doesn't appear that way.
LECCI: Today representatives from the Justice Department met with community leaders from the St. Louis area. The department is investigating whether Ferguson police have systematically engaged in civil rights abuses. The DOJ recently rebuked some Ferguson police for wearing bands that read, I am Darren Wilson, while on duty.
A local grand jury is currently hearing evidence related to the Brown shooting and will decide whether to indict Officer Wilson. A town hall meeting will be held in Ferguson tonight as part of city leaders' ongoing attempts to calm emotions.
For NPR News, I'm Stephanie Lecci in St. Louis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.