Unrest continues tonight in Missouri as various police departments have descended on the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson over the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown eight days ago. Although Thursday night showed promising signs of peace after Governor Jay Nixon recalled St. Louis County Police from security detail, live-stream footage from Sunday night shows growing tension and clashes with police.
This is the second night of a midnight curfew imposed by Nixon when declaring a state of emergency on Saturday, and police appear determined to enforce the curfew — well before it even takes effect. As they did earlier this week, police claim that protests had turned violent when using force to disperse demonstrators. St. Louis County Police reported on Twitter tonight that Molotov cocktails had been lobbed at officers, but we have seen no media reports that corroborate the police's claims. To the contrary, some reporters noted that the police appeared to fire tear gas canisters on protesters without provocation. An eight-year-old boy is reportedly among those hit by tear gas tonight.
Police are essentially shooting tear gas at people and saying "they started it"
Woman limping around, say she was hit by rubber bullet. Couldn't get an ambulance.— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) August 18, 2014
Woman getting treated with McDonald's milk after getting hit with tear gas (via Getty) pic.twitter.com/8TLBZzi7jy— Matt Novak (@paleofuture) August 18, 2014
Then, in a dramatic and swift turn of events, police advanced on protesters with armored vehicles, tear gas, and sound weapons, pushing them back down the stretch of road that has been host to demonstrations and police confrontations for more than a week. Like the arbitrary arrests of reporters earlier this week, reporters on the ground tonight are also complaining of arrests and threats from the police. At one point a police officer approached a live-stream operator, shouting at him to "get the fuck out of here" or be shot.
Following the shooting of Brown last Saturday, the police's involvement in the shooting and its heavy-handed response have ignited a national conversation about police brutality and the militarization of the US's police force. "I feel like in some ways the police need to be militarized and in some ways they don't," a four-year Army veteran and St. Louis County resident told The Verge. "But this is a peaceful protest. This has been a peaceful protest from the beginning."
Reports of shots fired at W. Florissant and Solway. Please leave the area immediately!— St. Louis County PD (@stlcountypd) August 18, 2014
They're shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at us with no warning. #Ferguson— Joel D. Anderson (@blackink12) August 18, 2014
Police now saying earlier reports of shots fired turn out to be fireworks. #staywoke— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) August 18, 2014
In the meantime, Michael Brown's parents and their community wait for answers. A private, preliminary autopsy of Brown released today found that he was shot six times, twice in the head. A separate, third autopsy will be conducted by federal authorities due to "extraordinary circumstances" in the wake of his death.
While police have aggressively dispersed crowds in Ferguson over the last week due to isolated incidents of violence, protests have been largely peaceful. On Thursday, when police were largely absent from the area near where Michael Brown had been slain, local organizers attempted to police the area themselves, though cautioned that the weekend would bring new difficulties.
Sam Byford and Rich McCormick contributed to this report.