For A 4th Night, Ferguson Police Disperse Protesters

We hear voices from Ferguson, Mo., a community in distress over the death of Michael Brown who was shot and killed last Saturday by a police officer. The young African-American man was unarmed.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We're going to hear voices now from Ferguson, Missouri, a community still in distress over the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, shot and killed last Saturday by a Ferguson police officer. The young African-American was unarmed. We begin with NPR's David Schaper, who reports on the fears of some parents for their boys and young men of color.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: The late afternoon protest march through the neighborhood in which Michael Brown was shot began peacefully under the watchful eyes of a heavy police presence.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Please continue down Canfield or West Florissant. Please continue moving peacefully, as you have been.

SCHAPER: The march ended in front of what's left of a convenience store that was torched by rioters Sunday night. It's the location where hundreds of protesters have been gathering every night since amid rising racial tensions here. But this time, at least initially, the atmosphere was not nearly as agitated.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED CHOIR: (Singing, unintelligible).

SCHAPER: A local church conducted a street revival of sorts from a flatbed trailer, and a group of young girls marched into the street with a serious message.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED GIRLS: Mike Brown. Justice for Mike Brown. Justice for Mike Brown. Justice for Mike Brown.

SCHAPER: But the atmosphere began to change as the sun went down. The youngsters of the church groups left, and the crowd that remained took up angry chants.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Yelling) Hands up.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Yelling) Don't shoot.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Yelling) Hands up.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Yelling) Don't shoot.

SCHAPER: Police in riot gear surrounded the demonstration area with some officers in armored vehicles aiming their guns at the crowd while police helicopters hovered overhead. City officials have urged protesters to disperse after dark. Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson stresses that the city is not imposing any kind of curfew.

THOMAS JACKSON: We're just asking that protests be peaceful. We understand the anger. We understand that people want answers. And we understand that we've got a problem.

SCHAPER: And Chief Jackson acknowledges that that problem is poor race relations.

ANTHONY ROSS: It's the constant pressure of every time a police officer soldiers get behind us, that we're gripping the steering wheel.

SCHAPER: Standing in protest outside of Ferguson's police department, 26-year-old Anthony Ross of neighboring Berkeley describes what it's like to be a young, black male in this area.

ROSS: Every time you see a cop, it's like, all right, am I going to get messed with? You feel that way every single time you get behind your car - every time.

SCHAPER: And Ross says as difficult as it is to cope with himself, he says it's a heartbreaking lesson to give to his children.

ROSS: As a father, I should not have to teach my kids how to be arrested. I should not have to teach my son to do everything possible to make sure that you are not killed out here in these streets when a police officer pulls you over.

SCHAPER: It's difficult for mothers of black boys, too, as Amy Hunter told an overflowing crowd at an area community forum on the Michael Brown shooting earlier this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AMY HUNTER: There is no other people on earth that I love more than my children. And I would really like to stop being afraid every time they leave my house.

(APPLAUSE)

SCHAPER: Hunter says one of her sons was stopped and patted down by an officer while walking home when he was just 12.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HUNTER: And then he looked at me, and he said, Mom, how long will this happen to me? And I said, for the rest of your life.

SCHAPER: It is with the searing memories of those kinds of experiences that protesters such as 20-year-old Marcus Mopkins of Ferguson says make him just fed up. He says he will continue to demonstrate every night, even if there's violence.

MARCUS MOPKINS: From the looks of it, I don't think that this will never end - from the looks of it. I don't think they'll ever stop.

SCHAPER: Meanwhile, the medical examiner's office has released the body of 18-year-old Michael Brown to his family, which is planning his funeral for Saturday. David Schaper. NPR News, St. Louis.

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