Generation Gap Divides Local Opinion On Ferguson Protests In Ferguson, Mo., some younger and older residents have differing views on whether violence among protesters is appropriate and how best to effect change.
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Generation Gap Divides Local Opinion On Ferguson Protests

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Generation Gap Divides Local Opinion On Ferguson Protests

Generation Gap Divides Local Opinion On Ferguson Protests

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Police in Ferguson, Missouri are bracing for the possibility of a large protest there tonight as the community outside of St. Louis marks two weeks since a white police officer shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. The last three nights have been relatively quiet and peaceful, with smaller demonstrations following several nights of unrest in the wake of the shooting. In the predominantly African-American neighborhood where the most violent protests have taken place, NPR's David Schaper reports on the generation gap between residents and how they view the protests.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Racial tensions have cooled considerably in Ferguson after nearly 10 days of loud, raucous and sometimes violent protests, during which some agitators would throw rocks, bottles and Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with rubber bullets, smoke bombs and tear gas.


CROWD: (Chanting) Don't shoot. Hands up.

SCHAPER: Among those in the midst of the violent demonstrations last week was 20-year-old Marcus Mopkins of Ferguson.

MARCUS MOPKINS: Yeah, there was a couple of people shooting at the posts. They is where they should've been.

SCHAPER: You think they should have been?

MOPKINS: Yeah. If you ask me, I would've shot the police myself.

SCHAPER: I asked why, and Mopkins says it's not just because of the shooting of Michael Brown but what residents here say is a long pattern of police harassment of young black men and the aggressive police efforts to contain and disperse the protesters.

MOPKINS: I just - I'm fed up. I'm ready to cause damage myself.

SCHAPER: That kind of frustration worries other residents of this mostly African-American part of Ferguson, who are anxious the protests could turn violent again any time.

RON REYNOLDS: Ron Reynolds, 57-years-old. I work at Boeing, and our neighborhood is messed up right now.

SCHAPER: Reynolds is standing in his driveway one recent night as a police helicopter hovers over the protesters a couple of blocks away.

REYNOLDS: We're residents here. Everything that's going on - it reflects us. It reflects us.

SCHAPER: Reynolds worries that some of the burned and looted businesses won't come back and some homeowners may move out too. And Reynolds says by turning violent, the protester's cause for justice might be lost.

CHARLES JOLLY: I think differently about what's going on.

SCHAPER: This is Reynolds' 36-year-old stepson, Charles Jolly.

JOLLY: I think it is a generation gap, and I understand the young people.

SCHAPER: Jolly says some violent protesting in Ferguson is necessary.

JOLLY: I don't condone all of it but you wouldn't be here if that wasn't happening. It wouldn't get a lot of notoriety and it would probably just be swept under the rug.

REYNOLDS: I understand the way my son feels, and you can't blame them. That's their generation.

SCHAPER: Again, 57-year-old Ron Reynolds.

REYNOLDS: Our generation is - you try to be peaceful. Like Martin Luther King say, you turn the other cheek. But this generation ain't going to turn the other cheek, it's simple as that. They're not going to do it. They are not going to it. They're tired.

ADRIAN ELLIS: They've been harassed more than we have.

REYNOLDS: That's right.

ELLIS: They are harassed on a daily basis.

SCHAPER: Fifty-four-year-old Adrian Ellis is an electrician who lives across the street. He says he understands the frustrations of the young protesters but Ellis worries that violent protesting helps perpetuate a stereotype of the black community being violent. And while the protests have chilled considerably, the three men all worry about the still-simmering racial tensions beneath the surface of Ferguson, especially, Ron Reynolds says, if police officer Darren Wilson isn't charged in the shooting of Michael Brown.

REYNOLDS: You can bet Ferguson is going to burn.

SCHAPER: A grand jury began hearing evidence in the case this week. David Schaper, NPR News, Ferguson, Missouri.

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