Nightly Chaos Disrupts Ferguson Residents' Daily Lives
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
In Ferguson, Missouri, the night started with no curfew and peaceful protests. But then the piece didn't last. People in the crowd began throwing rocks and bottles. Then police ordered people off the streets. And then there was gunfire.
(SOUNDBITE OF FERGUSON PROTEST)
UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: Remove the objects from the roadway.
UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: You are unlawfully assembled.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Gunfire.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Police responded with tear gas and stun grenades.
(SOUNDBITE OF STUN GRENADES)
GREENE: At least two people were shot, though police say they did not fire any bullets. Thirty-one arrests were made.
MCEVERS: In a press conference after midnight, an emotional Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol pleaded with people to stay off the streets at night.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
CAPTAIN RON JOHNSON: I'm asking them for their safety, the safety of the kids that they bring out and for our attempt to put this neighborhood back together - back together. Come during the day. And let us deal with those that are bent on ruining our community and not let them mask themselves behind you.
MCEVERS: NPR's Shereen Marisol Meraji from our Code Switch team is on the ground in Ferguson. She found that many residents of the community share that wish to end the nightly chaos that has disrupted their lives since the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by police more than a week ago.
SHEREEN MARISOL MERAJI, BYLINE: Michael Brown was shot and killed in a neighborhood filled with sprawling apartment complexes that the world now thinks of as a war zone. But residents say before all of this, life was pretty uneventful.
CHERETHIA SAULSBERRY: We were like a family.
MERAJI: Cherethia Saulsberry said she moved to this area couple of years ago because of the manicured lawns and community feel.
SAULSBERRY: You know, you go through, you wave, you blow your horn at everybody, everybody's outside, saying hello, goodbye, have a good evening. Now everybody is closed off. They're, you know, hurrying along. It's frightening.
MERAJI: Saulsberry adds what's most frightening is the unpredictability at night - tear gas, looting, police checkpoints and now the National Guard. Neighbor Charlotte Knight says it's hard to run a basic errand.
CHARLOTTE KNIGHT: We don't have any store--Schnucks closes at 5:00 p.m., no banks stay open past 3:00 p.m. Where are you going to go? Some of us don't have direct deposit. Some of us don't even have places to go cash our checks
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Or cars to get to it.
KNIGHT: Or cars to get to it. The majority of these people over here are low-income people. They really don't have anywhere to go.
MERAJI: Knight says add to that stopped traffic from blocked roads in and out of her neighborhood and checkpoints.
KNIGHT: So they need to help these people give them some answers or something so us other people that are trying to make an honest living can get to and from work. My mama have cancer. She lives over there on the other side in these same complexes. But it's hard to get to her because we can't.
DWAYNE WICKERSON: The traffic has been - has been stopped up. But it's been better.
MERAJI: Dwayne Wickerson lives in the neighborhood too.
WICKERSON: Everybody coming together, everybody is family, everybody is looking out for one another.
MERAJI: He says the demonstrators are like a community now, and he's not stopping anytime soon.
WICKERSON: I've got blankets. I've got pillows. We're going to make pellets out here baby. I got candles when it dark - forever, until we got - it's been going on for too long. We want it. We need it. We're hungry, we're starving for it.
MERAJI: For what, exactly?
MERAJI: For Wickerson, justice means getting rid of the Ferguson Police Department altogether. He's standing with a couple dozen young African-American men and women, right near the makeshift memorial for Brown that's in the middle of the street. Life has become so surreal in this neighborhood that perhaps it's no surprise that the Reverend Jesse Jackson, seemingly out of nowhere, walks up to the group to offer some advice.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Hey y'all, let Jesse Jackson talk.
MERAJI: Jackson says the key to making things better is political power.
REVEREND JESSE JACKSON: In Ferguson, if we go door-to-door - hear me now - and register 5,000 voters, you can take the whole town.
MERAJI: Only 6 percent of eligible black voters in Ferguson turned out for the 2013 municipal elections. The mayor is white. One of six City Council members is black. But Ferguson is two-thirds African-American. And while she thinks diversify the government matters, Mya Canty, a recent college grad who lives just down the street from where Michael Brown was shot, says life will not return to normal until the cop who shot him is arrested.
MYA CANTY: People are going to be out here. The curfew hasn't stopped us, the police acting a fool towards us, disrespecting us hasn't stopped us. And I want them to know that, like, we're not going to stop. Sorry, we apologize. Sorry not sorry (laughter).
MERAJI: Canty says she's been late every day for work because of the traffic. It's been hard to run basic errands and even get back into her neighborhood when she gets off work. But she adds it's all been worth it. Shereen Marisol Meraji, NPR News, Ferguson, Missouri. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.