By T.C. Sottek and Matt Stroud
The people of Ferguson, Missouri are still out on the streets. They're loud, and they're upset, but tonight they're not being intimidated by warrior cops. They're not being tear gassed. They're not being shot at with rubber bullets. They're simply doing what Americans do in hard times.
The decision today by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to yank St. Louis County Police from security detail appears to be paying off. Since police shot and killed Michael Brown on Saturday, heavily armed officers locked down the neighborhood, intimidating peaceful protestors. Police aggression peaked on Wednesday night as the nation watched, as officers advanced on crowds of residents, asking them to turn off their cameras. Police even tear gassed an Al Jazeera news crew, and arrested two journalists for no reason.
The tone has shifted. Residents we spoke with on the ground today said they're finally able to do what they wanted to do in the first place: mourn the death of Michael Brown and let the country know that his death was senseless and unnecessary. The afternoon, marked by calm solidarity, has transformed into a boisterous parade. People from all over St. Louis — and elsewhere — are driving through this small strip of Ferguson, honking horns liberally, packed so full that passengers are hanging out of the windows.
Whenever hands are raised, just as Brown's were before he was fatally shot, the chant echoes through the street: "Hands up! / Don't shoot!"
We asked several people who've been present for the protests how the tone has changed since St. Louis County Police left Ferguson. In a word, it's peaceful. "They told us to go back to the house," a young man named Sosa told us. "We don't want to be in the house. We want to be on the streets."