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Tensions Reignite In Ferguson Between Police, Protesters


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Emotions grew heated last night again in Ferguson, Missouri. It is now one full week since a police officer shot Michael Brown - unarmed black teenager there. Yesterday, police released the name of the officer, Darren Wilson, which demonstrators had been demanding for days.

Frank Morris of member station KCUR has been following the story in Ferguson. When we spoke with him earlier today, he described last night's protests, which began at the QuikTrip convenience store.

FRANK MORRIS: Well, you know, it started out pretty peacefully. It was raining and there were people clogging the street in front of this QuikTrip - the burned out QuikTrip that's been kind of the nexus of the protest. It was almost like the home team had won the national championship. There were people, high-fives, lots of honking. In fact, one of the fellows I spoke with, Corey Williams (ph), said he'd never seen anything quite as heartwarming in his entire life.

COREY WILLIAMS: I see all unity. I've never seen it like this in St. Louis in my 45 years, where this many African-Americans have gotten together and united for a cause. I love it. I love it. I never thought I would see this.

SIMON: But things got ugly last night too, didn't they?

MORRIS: Well, yeah, that's right. Mr. Williams had not seen any police at all. And not long after we spoke, they started to show up. Eventually, there was some looting, broken windows. Now this really sharply divides the protesters. I walked into the neighborhood around the protests yesterday afternoon, which is a neighborhood full of tidy brick houses and neat lawns. I spoke with a guy who was out waxing his car - 71-year-old Carter Sigh (ph). And for Mr. Sigh, the violence and the destruction of property just makes him mad.

CARTER SIGH: This wasn't about no Mike Brown. This is about a whole bunch of thieves and thugs that wanted to get out here and show themselves - you know, let themselves known. That's all it was, you know.

SIMON: Frank, yesterday, also police released a store video that was taken earlier in the day that Michael Brown was killed - just actually a few minutes before - apparently stealing cigarillos. There have been some mixed messages from the police chief about whether that theft had anything to do with Michael Brown being stopped. Was the release of this video a kind of spark in the tinderbox?

MORRIS: Well, it certainly made people angry. It was seen as - pretty widely seen as an effort to besmirch Michael Brown's character. And so people like Avian Seeley (ph) who was out at the QuikTrip protesting yesterday afternoon - that hit them very close to home.

AVIAN SEELEY: This could have been my cousin. This could have been me. This could have been my brother, my father. Like, this is really, really upsetting.

SIMON: What do we know about the progress of the investigation?

MORRIS: Not a whole lot. We're not getting very much from the St. Louis County Police Department. The FBI and the Justice Department - they're canvassing the neighborhood looking for more witnesses for their civil rights investigation.

SIMON: Reporter Frank Morris in Ferguson, Missouri. Thanks very much for being with us.

MORRIS: Thanks a lot, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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