Vandalism, looting after vigil for Missouri man
By Jim Salter, AP
August 12, 2014, 12:03 am TWN
FERGUSON, Missouri--People smashed car windows and carried away armloads of looted goods from stores Sunday night after thousands of people packed a suburban St. Louis area at a vigil for an unarmed black man who was shot and killed by a police officer.
The candlelight gathering was for 18-year-old Michael Brown, who police said was shot multiple times Saturday after a scuffle involving the officer, Brown and another person in Ferguson, a predominantly black suburb of the city.
The killing drew criticism from some civil rights leaders, who referred to the 2012 racially charged shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a Florida neighborhood watch organizer who was acquitted of murder charges.
“We're outraged because yet again a young African-American man has been killed by law enforcement,” said John Gaskin, who serves on both the St. Louis County and national boards of directors for the NAACP.
After the vigil, some people looted a convenience store. Several other stores along a main road near the shooting scene were broken into and looted, including a check-cashing store, a boutique and a small grocery store.
People were seen carrying bags of food and toilet paper. TV footage showed streams of people walking out of a liquor store carrying bottles of alcohol, and in some cases protesters were standing atop police cars or taunting officers who stood stoic, often in riot gear.
Other witnesses reported seeing people vandalize police cars and kick in windows. Television footage showed windows busted out of a TV station van.
“Right now, the small group of people are creating a huge mess,” Ferguson's mayor, James Knowles, told St. Louis KTVI-TV. “Contributing to the unrest that is going on is not going to help ... We're only hurting ourselves, only hurting our community, hurting our neighbors. There's nothing productive from this.”
As the investigation of Brown's death progresses, “we understand people want to vent their frustrations. We understand they want to speak out,” Knowles added. “We're going to obviously try to urge calm.”
St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley said there were no reports of injuries but confirmed widespread property damage. “Right now I'm just worried about people, not property,” he said.
Earlier in the day, a few hundred protesters had gathered outside Ferguson Police headquarters. At one point, many of them marched into an adjacent police building, some chanting “Don't shoot me” while holding their hands in the air. Officers stood at the top of a staircase, but didn't use force; the crowd eventually left.
County Police Chief Jon Belmar said the shooting occurred after an officer encountered two people — one of whom was Brown — on the street near an apartment complex in Ferguson.