JNN 26 Nov 2014 Ferguson – Missouri : Chaos broke out on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri after a grand jury declined to indict white police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown.
The decision enraged protesters, some of whom set fire to buildings and cars and looted businesses in the area where the 18-year-old Brown was shot dead.
The rioting soon spread to many other cities across the United States, with thousands of people pouring into the streets of Los Angeles and New York to protest against the grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson.
‘Black lives matter’
In New York City, marchers chanting “Black lives matter” snarled traffic on Broadway through Times Square.
In Chicago, demonstrators walked up Lake Shore Drive carrying banners that read “Justice for Mike Brown”.
Police in Ferguson used smoke canisters and trucks to force waves of violent protesters down the street away from the police building soon after sporadic gunshots were heard.
Angry protesters overran barricades and taunted police in Ferguson, with some chanting “murderer” and others throwing stones and bottles, as police car windows were smashed and protesters tried to set vehicles ablaze.
Officers eventually lobbed tear gas from inside armored vehicles to disperse the angry crowds.
At least 61 people have been arrested in Ferguson and surrounding areas overnight as protests grew violent.
Monday night’s destruction appeared to be much worse than last summer’s protests, with at least a dozen businesses badly damaged or destroyed, according to AP.
Authorities reported hearing hundreds of gunshots, which for a time prevented fire fighter crew from fighting the flames.
Jon Belmar, chief of the St. Louis County police, said unless his agency could bring in 10,000 officers, “I don’t think we can prevent folks who really are intent on destroying a community.”
In the first flash of unrest after the grand jury’s announcement, Belmar said he told officers to back off, suggesting they handle the situation as if it were a festival or baseball game. But the situation quickly “spun out of control,” as protesters looted businesses and set fire to numerous vehicles, including at least two police cars.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Dante Barry, executive director of Million Hoodies for Justice, said the protesters were “rightfully angry”.
“There is this misconception that we are living in a post-racial society. Even with a Black president, it [police killings of African Americans] is still happening under his watch.
“What you’re seeing tonight is folks expressing frustration and it’s rightfully so.”
Grand jury’s decision inflames deep racial tensions in the U.S.
The grand jury’s decision means that Officer Wilson, who is white, will not face any state criminal charges for killing Brown, whose death inflamed deep racial tensions between many Black Americans and the police.
Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch said the jury of nine whites and three Blacks met on 25 separate days over three months, hearing more than 70 hours of testimony from about 60 witnesses, including three medical examiners and experts on blood, toxicology and firearms.
“They are the only people that have heard and examined every witness and every piece of evidence,” he said, adding that the jurors “poured their hearts and soul into this process.”
As McCulloch read his statement, Michael Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, sat atop a vehicle listening to a broadcast of the announcement. When she heard the decision, she burst into tears and began screaming before being whisked away by supporters.
The crowd with her erupted in anger, converging on the barricade where the police in riot gear were standing. They pushed down the barricade and began pelting police with objects, including a bullhorn. Officers stood their ground.
Brown’s family released a statement saying they were “profoundly disappointed” in the decision but asked that the public “channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.”
Shortly after the announcement, authorities released more than 1,000 pages of grand jury documents, including Wilson’s testimony.
Outrage across U.S. over Racial Discrimination as President Obama appeals for calm
Thousands of people held demonstrations in other U.S. cities, mostly peaceful, as President Barack Obama appealed for calm and understanding, pleading with both protesters and the police to show restraint.
Several churches in Ferguson have opened their doors to provide safe haven for members of the public.
At least 10 St. Louis-bound flights were diverted to other airports because of concern about gunfire being aimed into the sky over Ferguson, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
The Justice Department is conducting a separate investigation into possible civil rights violations that could result in federal charges, but investigators would need to satisfy a rigorous standard of proof in order to mount a prosecution. The department also has launched a broad probe into the Ferguson Police Department, looking for patterns of discrimination.