- Ferguson, Missouri 08/18/2014 by ALICE SPERI (WWW.VICE.COM)
Tension in Ferguson, Missouri escalated yet again Sunday as clashes erupted well before the midnight curfew imposed by authorities attempting to quell the protests that have now dominated the St. Louis suburb for over a week.
Early on Monday — shortly after police told reporters there was no plan to deploy the National Guard — Missouri's Governor Jay Nixon did just that.
"Tonight, a day of hope, prayers, and peaceful protests was marred by the violent criminal acts of an organized and growing number of individuals, many from outside the community and state, whose actions are putting the residents and businesses of Ferguson at risk," the governor said in a statement. "Given these deliberate, coordinated and intensifying violent attacks on lives and property in Ferguson, I am directing the highly capable men and women of the Missouri National Guard to assist Colonel Ron Replogle and the Unified Command in restoring peace and order to this community."
Sunday's curfew was supposed to kick in for the second night in a row at midnight, but at least two and a half hours prior to that officers responding to some individuals throwing Molotov cocktails and shooting at police had fired tear gas on a crowd of protesters — which at that time included dozens of peaceful demonstrators and several children.
Gov. Nixon said today that there will be no curfew in Ferguson tonight.
Protesters attempting to rescue those hit by tear gas reportedly broke into a local McDonald's and used the store's milk to help relieve the sting of gas. Other store break-ins and lootings were also reported throughout the night, though police had much of the suburb cleared by the early hours of Sunday.
At least one person was shot during the protest and seven people were arrested for "failure to disperse," police said. But speaking to VICE News from a bus where they had been brought, cuffed men beating their hands against the windows to grab reporters' attention said they had been "locked up for nothing."
Police had said earlier this week they would not turn to tear gas and shooting to enforce the curfew, but they did so at protests overnight on both Saturday and Sunday.
On Sunday, as the clashes started well ahead of the curfew, many residents found themselves trapped in a neighborhood under lockdown — with dozens of police officers in riot gear yelling at them over loud speakers to go home, but also blocking the way for them to do so.
"It's not curfew yet," a protester brandishing an exploded tear gas canister yelled at police while coming out from behind a home on West Florissant — which is Ferguson's main road and the front line in the protests. "Don't shoot," he yelled before running back for cover.
"Everyone's feeling like this is the time to stand up. Everyone feels like this is the time to voice our opinion and let the world know what's been going on," Jurmael, a Ferguson resident, told VICE News. "They're not talking to us like we're humans, they're talking to us like we're animals."
It was not immediately clear when the National Guard troops would descend on the suburb and in what numbers, but residents already angered by the recent curfew and state of emergency condemned all further escalation from authorities.
On Monday, police cleared an afternoon protest by a local gas station that demonstrators have come to refer to as their "Ground Zero" — leading many to slam officials for infringing on their right to protest.
After governor Nixon declared an emergency on Saturday, following some incidents of looting, many had pledged to break the curfew.
"This is our home, we shouldn't have to ask permission to cross the street," a protester told VICE News on Sunday. "We are grown adults, we shouldn't have someone to tell us when to go home."
Peaceful protests have also continued to take place daily — and hundreds of people, including many families, gathered at a local church on Sunday afternoon for a rally attended by Michael Brown's family, as well as civil rights leaders Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.
People in Ferguson — and those observing in solidarity from across the country — have begun to refer to the suburb's protests as "a movement" and several have expressed to VICE News the need to build on the current momentum to demand changes and justice well beyond the shooting of Brown.
"Independent of the racial demographics and dynamics of Ferguson, Missouri, there's a "Ferguson" near you," Jackson wrote in an editorial last week.
At an afternoon rally today, residents expressed frustrations with authorities' response to the people's anger. Holding signs and chanting slogans as they have done more or less uninterruptedly for the past week, they called on the local police chief to resign, and on President Obama to "come to Ferguson now."
"It's not just about the shooting, it's bigger than that… It's about, where are the people that are supposed to protect us, where are they?" Pamela Merri-Weather, a Ferguson resident who took her 6-year-old grandson to the afternoon rally to teach him how to be "a citizen," told VICE News.
Schools in Ferguson were closed on Monday, with many parents saying their children were traumatized by the heavy police presence of the past week.
"I never thought I would see this at age 50," said Merri-Weather, adding that she was too young to participate in the civil rights protests of the 1960s. "I didn't think that I would live to see something like this… Because something happened in my backyard."