ST. LOUIS, Mo. (NNPA)— What started as a peaceful prayer vigil for Michael Brown, the unarmed teen who was killed by Ferguson police, ended in an explosion of looting and destruction in the North County area surrounding where the tragedy took place—and beyond.
Hundreds gathered at 8 pm for a peaceful candlelight vigil in the young man’s honor. Before 9 pm, police would summon surrounding municipalities as the crowd turned aggressive.
The Target parking lot of the Buzz Westfall Shopping Center was filled with dozens and dozens of police vehicles and the area of West Florissant from Jennings to Ferguson was blocked off. Helicopters and tanks (as well as vehicles from a host of area departments) descended on West Florissant as looting and vandalism got underway.
Incidents kicked off with the damage of police cars along West Florissant and a KMOV-TV news van.
By 10 pm, the Ferguson QuikTrip (initially thought to be the catalyst for the turn of events that led to Brown’s death) was targeted. Before night’s end, it would be up in flames.
Hundreds of police were in the area as several area businesses were besieged in North County. According to , the list of establishments that experienced varying degrees of damages included: Zisser Tire and Auto, AutoZone, Family Dollar, Walmart, Footlocker, Ross, Walgreens, Shoe Carnival, Hibbett Sports Taco Bell, Sprint Store, K-Mart, DTLR, Phillips 66 and Meineke.
It would be nearly 2 am before the situation was under control.
Early on in the evening after the protest transitioned from the initial vigil, a member of the Brown family condemned the actions while speaking with Fox 2.
“[We] just want everyone to know and understand that the stealing and breaking in stores is not what Mike will want, it is very upsetting to me and my family. Our family didn’t ask for this but for Justice and Peace. Please let my family grieve in Peace and stop the violence in the street tonight. We don’t want this happing when we protest for justice for my cousin, Mike Brown. Please get this message out to the people that the Mike Brown family do not want this.”
According to County Police, nearly three dozen were arrested as a result of this week’s activities.
Jesse Jackson told The St. Louis American he hopes that the U.S. Department of Justice sees the Ferguson Police shooting of Michael Brown on Saturday and resulting community violence as “systematic of a national crisis.”
“It was a crime of injustice,” Jackson said.
The injustice, he said, was two-fold: a police shooting of an unarmed Black teen followed by Black youth from high-unemployment neighborhoods erupting in rage.
“Black men should not be the objects of target practice,” Jackson said of the shooting. “It’s not a unique situation. It’s a prototypical American situation. Police departments do not reflect the population. It’s awful, but it’s not unique.”
The resulting community violence on Sunday, following a non-violent candlelight vigil to commemorate Brown, should be seen in the context of a chronic urban crisis, he said.
“Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction,” Jackson said. “Poverty is in the community. Guns are in, drugs are in, jobs are out. Banks are bailed out without meaningful community reinvestment. Too many people have no stake in the culture.”
Jackson said that chronic urban problems remain to be addressed after the shooting of Michael Brown and the community’s outrage are resolved.
“These kids need educations, skills, job training, jobs, scholarships to college,” Jackson said. “We need a national forum on urban policy, justice and repression. This is a national crisis that has manifested in Ferguson.”
Asked for advice to organizers on the ground, Jackson said: “That’s tough. I saw a sign that said we need quietness. Quietness is not the answer. Quietness is the absence of noise. We need the presence of justice.”