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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

After Forcing Ferguson Protesters to March in Confined Protest Area, Tear Gas Again

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 at 9:24 AM

click to enlarge Protesters Monday night. - RAY DOWNS
  • Ray Downs
  • Protesters Monday night.

It started out as a day of walking and ended up a night of gas, gunshots and a protester who came back to the scene just to pick up the trash left by his fellow protesters.

"Keep moving!" barked a police officer at a protester who stopped on the street to talk to a friend.

That was the rule Monday afternoon: Keep moving, and you can protest. Stop, and you'd be subject to arrest. For most of the day, protesters marched back and forth on the West Florissant sidewalk between Canfield Drive and Ferguson Avenue. They weren't allowed to go any further. And walking into the street could mean a night in jail.

Not everybody appreciated the rules, especially in the August heat. As the day went on, protesters complained about the restrictions on the protest set forth by police.

"Martin Luther King wouldn't have done it like this," shouted a frustrated protester. "He'd keep on going!"

Despite disagreeing with the rules, he, along with many others, kept marching on. But the overall sentiment was that the police were simply tiring the protesters out so they would leave sooner. And many felt the rules -- being told where to walk, told not to stand on the sidewalk, and even told not to sit in front of a closed business -- was just an attempt to curb their First Amendment rights.

See all Riverfront Times coverage of Michael Brown and Ferguson.

In front of a closed dentist office, several people sat down in a shaded area, resting their feet and taking in some shade. Every few moments, fellow protesters would come by to warn them they could be arrested if they sat down too long.

Deborah, who asked Daily RFT not to use her last name, was taking a seat in front of a closed dentist office.

"I think the way they're handling the protest is unconstitutional," said Deborah. "They have not given us a reason why we have to walk. They've not said anything to us. How is that legal, what they're doing to us?"

She added: "Just give us our rights -- they're stripping it again right now. But there's a way to end this: Arrest the officer."

"We all want justice for Mike Brown," said Michelle Pierce, who was also taking a break from the sun. "We've all been out here, protesting, being peaceful, so we should be able to remain out here. And we just want the officer arrested for murder. He shot [Brown] six times, so he ought to be arrested for murder."

Police cruisers started driving up and down the street with more frequency. Another protester came by to warn those sitting by the dentist office that police were making sweeps and arresting those who have congregated. Ernestine Hudson, 64, slowly got up.

"My legs are tired and my knees are tired, but I'll keep walking," she said. "And I'm gonna walk real slow, too."

A younger man who had been sitting nearby also got up.

"You go ahead and walk as slow as you want, sister," he said. "And I'm gonna walk right with you."

But as the night went on the rules loosened, and the police presence increased drastically. During the day, city and county cops in regular uniform patrolled the area and sat in cars or SUVs. But around dusk, the military presence that has become a symbol of the Ferguson protests took over.

Seemingly, police have tried something a little different each night. And on Monday, they blocked off both ends of West Florissant between Ferguson Avenue and Canfield Drive with several armored trucks and 100 to 150 riot-gear police. And as the night went on, things became tense -- something many protesters attribute to the militarized might that dominates the protest scene each night in Ferguson.

Click on the next page for more about individual protesters...

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