Ferguson Grand Jury Decision Reverberates Across The Nation
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
It has been another long night of protest in Ferguson, Missouri, though without the gunfire and the widespread arson we saw late on Monday. This time, more than 2,000 National Guard troops joined forces with local police on the streets there. There were protests in some 150 cities across the country. They remained peaceful. All this followed Monday's decision not to indict the police officer who killed Michael Brown. Let's turn to NPR's Cheryl Corley who is in Ferguson, where damage from last night's protests was limited - not so for the anger.
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CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Late last night, a spotlight from a police helicopter pierced the darkness as a crowd of protesters gathered in front of the Ferguson police department. Crystal Johnson, standing quietly a few feet from a line of police officers, said she just had to be there.
CRYSTAL JOHNSON: Because it's just a sad situation. Our justice system, it just fails us all the time. So if I didn't get out here and march and protest, it could happen to my son.
CORLEY: Johnson's brother, Deon Fisher, stood beside her.
DEON FISHER: People are protesting in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago. And I think it would be crazy for me to sit at home while people across the nation are really protesting for what happened here in St. Louis. So I think it's just my duty to be able to be out here as well.
CORLEY: Johnson and Fisher would leave the area as last night's protests turned ugly. Vandals managed to damage some additional storefronts and another police car was set on fire. More than 40 arrests were made. But the scene was not nearly as chaotic as Monday night.
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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Singing) We shall not, we shall not be moved.
CORLEY: In one of yesterday's first protests, more than 50 people, many wearing orange vests marked with the word clergy chanted and blocked traffic not far from the courthouse where the grand jury decision was made. Reverend Heather Arcovitch says they were showing their solidarity with other demonstrators upset that Police Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted for shooting 18-year-old Michael Brown to death.
REVEREND HEATHER ARCOVITCH: The protests that go on at night often look very different than the protests that go on during the day. We want to be sure that both the sleeping and the waking are aware that this is a problem that we will have for us with a long while. And we're not going to let it go.
CORLEY: Reverend Shaun Ellison Jones, an assistant pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church of St. Louis, said the church is not just a sanctuary. He says it's also in the streets.
REVEREND SHAUN ELLISON JONES: We wanted to, in the light of day, to show the people one, that every protester is not a looter - every protester is not one that will riot, but then also that the church is going to say that people have been affected too long by injustice and corruption in our communities.
CORLEY: During the protests that followed the grand jury announcement, Ferguson went up in flames. And several businesses were destroyed, others looted. Cars were torched, including police vehicles. Along West Florissant Street, the smell of smoke is still heavy. On one corner, the roof of a burned-out auto parts store sags.
TINA FORD: I live right around the corner from all this mess. It's horrible.
CORLEY: Tina Ford has lived in the area for nearly 20 years. She walked up to the corner to see the damage while police cars blocked the street to keep onlookers away.
FORD: We've been driving through here every day. And you look at all the businesses that are boarded up. It's like - how sad is that? - that you have to board up your business. When you look at the news, they say, well, we're bringing in the National Guard to protect the businesses. Where were they? Where were the police?
CORLEY: That's been the question of many here, including Ferguson's mayor, who said Missouri Governor Jay Nixon should have added more National Guard to the detail he activated so they could protect the city's businesses. Yesterday, Nixon announced he was nearly tripling the number of guardsmen helping to protect areas in and around Ferguson.
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GOVERNOR JAY NIXON: Altogether, there will be more than 2,200 national guardsmen in a region. Lives and property must be protected. This community deserves to have peace.
CORLEY: Even the president has stepped in. During a speech in Chicago, President Obama said there was no excuse for the destruction in Ferguson, which he called a criminal act. And he said he had a message for people trying to move forward.
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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I want all those folks to know that their president is going to work with them. And I think you'll find a lot of...
CORLEY: The president said next week, he'll have the attorney general gather law enforcement and community leaders in Washington to begin talks about how to build trust. Protesters here say the lack of trust between police and people of color became even more tenuous when Darren Wilson was not indicted for killing Michael Brown. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Ferguson.
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