To keep our Grio Fam up to date on the fast-moving events in Ferguson, Missouri, here is a wrap up of events over the past 48 hours:
Instead of armored vehicles carrying heavily-armed officers, cars continually honking horns rolled through Ferguson Thursday night. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon stripped local police of their law enforcement authority after four nights of violent clashes with protesters angered about the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen. Security is now being led by a black Highway Patrol commander. Streets of the St. Louis suburb have been filled with music, free food and even laughter.
- President Obama held a news conference Thursday afternoon calling for all to take a step back and to take a look at what it would take to move forward. The President says the Department of Justice and the FBI are independently investigating the death of Michael Brown. Mr. Obama said he has spoken with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to express concern about the violence, saying the Governor is a good man. “There is never an excuse for violence or to use the death of Mr. Brown as a cover for vandalism or looting nor should the police mistreat citizens or bully and arrest journalists who are doing their jobs.” He added, “Now is the time for healing, hope and calm.”
- Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, who has been the public face of the city torn by Saturday’s death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, told reporters that he understands what it looks like in Ferguson, and it is “not good.” He says there are meetings to evaluate tactics and wants protestors to stop the violence. He says the healing will be a long process and asks everyone to “tone it down.” Regarding the high level of conflict, Chief Jackson said he was satisfied that nobody has gotten hurt or killed in the climate of chaos that exists. He says police will facilitate Thursday night protests and asks that the demonstrators realize that the police will be exercising calm.
- Two-thirds of the 21,000 residents of Ferguson are black, while all but three of the police force’s 53 officers are white.
- Al Sharpton spoke this morning by phone to St. Louis County Police Chief John Belmar. After a candid exchange, Sharpton has called on the Department of Justice and others to monitor what is going on in Ferguson, Missouri, on the ground after a night where police arrested reporters and others and tear-gassed people protesting. Sharpton further announced that representatives of National Action Network (NAN) that have been on the ground since the weekend and local leaders that live there will be in a 10am meeting this morning with local police on this matter.
- Senate leader Harry Reid of Nevada released the following statement regarding the events in Ferguson, Missouri: “It is hard to think that the scenes unfolding in Ferguson are taking place in an American city in the year 2014. The nation’s eyes are on the city of Ferguson, and we will be watching closely. The public deserves a full disclosure of the facts surrounding the heartbreaking death of Michael Brown and the events that followed. Every community in America deserves equal justice and equal protection under the law.”
- Attorney Malik Shabazz, speaking on behalf of the Washington D.C.-based Black Lawyers For Justice! says, “We are representing the injured and arrested demonstrators involved in the Michael Brown case and assembling a class action lawsuit against the Ferguson Police Department and the City of Ferguson Missouri. People who were demonstrating peacefully have been tear-gassed, assaulted, humiliated and ran off the street, and they were given no warning to disperse, and they were attacked.”
- Louis City Alderman Antonio French, who has been among the citizen journalists documenting the aftermath, had been arrested, according to NBC affiliate KSDK. French’s prolific social media use has been credited with helping keep the spotlight on Ferguson and the Michael Brown story.
- On Wednesday night, Gov. Jay Nixon tonight issued the following statement on events in Ferguson, Missouri:
“The worsening situation in Ferguson is deeply troubling and does not represent who we are as Missourians or as Americans. While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law enforcement officers to protect the public, we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern. I have been closely monitoring the situation and will continue to be in communication with local leaders, and I will be in north St. Louis County tomorrow. As Governor, I am committed to ensuring the pain of last weekend’s tragedy does not continue to be compounded by this ongoing crisis. Once again, I ask that members of the community demonstrate patience and calm while the investigation continues, and I urge law enforcement agencies to keep the peace and respect the rights of residents and the press during this difficult time.”
- On Wednesday night, two reporters working for the Huffington Post and Washington Post were reportedly assaulted and arrested by police. Here is HuffPo’s statement on the matter: “We are relieved Ryan Reilly and Wesley Lowery are safe, but we are disturbed by their arrest and assault.”
- Ryan was working on his laptop in a McDonald’s near the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, when police barged in, armed with high-powered weapons, and began clearing the restaurant. Ryan photographed the intrusion, and police demanded his ID in response. Ryan, as is his right, declined to provide it. He proceeded to pack up his belongings but was subsequently arrested for not packing up fast enough. Both Ryan and Wesley were assaulted.
- Compared to some others who have come into contact with the police department, they came out relatively unscathed, but that in no way excuses the false arrest or the militant aggression toward these journalists. Ryan, who has reported multiple times from Guantanamo Bay, said that the police resembled soldiers more than officers and treated those inside the McDonald’s as “enemy combatants.” “Police militarization has been among the most consequential and unnoticed developments of our time, and it is now beginning to affect press freedom.”
This page will be updated as new information on the situation in Ferguson becomes available.