State Of Emergency Declared After Violent Protests In Ferguson, Mo.

Aug 10, 2015
Originally published on August 11, 2015 12:16 pm
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

In Ferguson, Mo., a weekend of peaceful protests marking the anniversary of the Michael Brown shooting came to an abrupt end last night. St. Louis County police shot and seriously wounded 18-year-old Tyrone Harris. Today, dozens of protesters were arrested after blocking the entrance to a federal courthouse in St. Louis. Demonstrators were demanding a greater government response to what they see as racist practices by law enforcement. As St. Louis Public Radio's Rachel Lippmann reports, this latest shooting brings new urgency to protests already planned.

RACHEL LIPPMANN, BYLINE: Detectives with St. Louis County police shot Tyrone Harris after he allegedly fired at them. He is a suspect in a gun battle that occurred along the West Florissant corridor as a protest was winding down. Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced 10 charges against Harris, including five counts of armed criminal action and four counts of first-degree assault on a law enforcement officer. He remains hospitalized in critical condition. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar was quick to draw the distinction between protesters and criminals.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHIEF JON BELMAR: There is a small group of people out there that are intent on making sure that we don't have peace that prevails. I don't know how else to say that. But that's just - that's just the bottom line on this.

LIPPMANN: Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Senator Claire McCaskill, the state's Democratic senator, all joined Belmar in condemning the violence that occurred while emphasizing its limited nature. The shooting followed a night that, at times, reminded those present of last August. A few stores along West Florissant had windows broken and items stolen. Officers would don helmets and shields, Belmar says, to keep them safe after they got hit with bottles. Early this morning, police used smoke to disperse a crowd. Last night's shooting was very much on the minds of those who marched the few blocks from Christ Church Cathedral to the federal courthouse this afternoon.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KAREN ANDERSON: We've come to say enough is enough.

LIPPMANN: Reverend Karen Anderson is the pastor at Ward African Methodist Episcopal Church in Florissant.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANDERSON: When peaceful protesters show up and they're met by riot gear and tear gas, that all you do is escalate the situation - that's what we saw last night.

LIPPMANN: Hers was a sentiment echoed by Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation, a liberal synagogue in St. Louis.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RABBI SUSAN TALVE: We have to change the way police shoot instead of counseling, instead of recognizing that our black and brown children are traumatized by the way they are treated.

LIPPMANN: The militarized response to protests was among the problems cited in a draft review by the Department of Justice of how the police handled the protests after Michael Brown's death last August. Protesters like Reverend Starsky Wilson said they want the federal government to do its job.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STARSKY WILSON: As faith leaders, we have come together today to deliver these demands to the home of those who have been entrusted with the mantle of justice for this nation.

LIPPMANN: Those demands include making federal funding contingent on nonbiased policing and using police funding to instead pay for alternatives to incarceration. Federal and city police made several arrests. The exact number was not known. For NPR News, I'm Rachel Lippmann in St. Louis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.