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Two Miles From Protests, Residents Want Calm To Return To Ferguson

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

And I'm Kelly McEvers in for Steve Inskeep. Good morning. It was pretty calm in Ferguson, Missouri last night. There were dozens of arrests but no gunfire, no tear gas, no Molotov cocktails. Still the daily protests in Ferguson since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown have largely painted one picture of the community there. Images of looting and standoffs with police by a crowd of mostly African-American demonstrators. NPR's Shereen Marisol Meraji ventured away from the protest zone and sent this report.

SHEREEN MARISOL MERAJI, BYLINE: I didn't go far. Just five minutes away from the major demonstrations is an idyllic neighborhood. Old homes with wraparound porches set far back from the street and nestled in the trees.

JACK HARRISON: It's a really nice community, this area.

MERAJI: Jack Harrison would know. This is a part of his mail route. He's been a postal worker for 40 years. I asked him to give me a little tour and he pointed out a huge house where the last mayor of Ferguson lives. We went by a wine bar, a brew pub, a cute coffee shop.

HARRISON: It's mostly just little mom-and-pop stuff.

MERAJI: Harrison says he hasn't traveled to see the protest happening just two miles away from all this.

HARRISON: I don't desire to go by all there. (Laughter) I mean, I'm not a person to protest. As long as I work for my job - 40 years I never filed a grievance. I just go do my job and that's it, you know.

MERAJI: David Proost lives in a beautiful old home on Harrison's mail route.

DAVID PROOST: Seventy-six years in Ferguson. It's a lovely town without all those intruders.

MERAJI: He says he has no patience for out-of-towners joining the protests. Proost is sitting with 87-year-old Jim Smith of the coffee shop. Smith owns an insurance company in town and says all the protesting and looting disgusts him.

JIM SMITH: I don't want that to continue. I think our leaders are derelict in their duty to control the environment and the city in which I live and in which I pay taxes. They ought to be taking a stronger stand.

MERAJI: Proost says if the demonstrators want change they should stop protesting and start voting.

PROOST: There are so many people here that don't vote, but they think they have the rights to everything in the world. If you don't vote, you aren't given all the gifts of our society.

MERAJI: In that same coffee shop Katie Mory comes in with her one-and-a-half -year-old to buy not a cup of coffee but a bright yellow shirt with Navy blue lettering that says Ferguson proud on the front. We walk outside and she tells me why she bought it.

KATIE MORY: Because I love Ferguson, and I've lived here my life. And it's an amazing town and it's a great community. Everybody knows everybody. And I'm just here to support.

MERAJI: But Mory makes it very clear that her support isn't for the demonstrators.

MORY: I think it's crazy. I can stand in my front yard and hear the protesters screaming and hearing the horns honk. I want to take my kids outside and not have to listen to the helicopter swarming above our house. And I just--it all just needs to be done and over with.

MERAJI: Philosophy professor Robert Ware sips his stout and waits on his pulled pork sandwich at the brewery just down the road.

ROBERT WARE: The pub that we're in now is a place I commonly come to after work for a sandwich and a drink.

MERAJI: Ware drives through Ferguson to get from the university to his home in Clayton, the county seat. He says he's been down to the protests every day since they started.

WARE: One of the reasons I came here was to show solidarity with black people locally and to show that white people care about these problems and they affect white people too. And most black people are really glad to see some support.

MERAJI: Ware says he's going to finish his dinner and drive the five minutes over to the protest zone to continue that support. Shereen Marisol Meraji, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Shereen Marisol Meraji is the co-host and senior producer of NPR's Code Switch podcast. She didn't grow up listening to public radio in the back seat of her parent's car. She grew up in a Puerto Rican and Iranian home where no one spoke in hushed tones, and where the rhythms and cadences of life inspired her story pitches and storytelling style. She's an award-winning journalist and founding member of the pre-eminent podcast about race and identity in America, NPR's Code Switch. When she's not telling stories that help us better understand the people we share this planet with, she's dancing salsa, baking brownies or kicking around a soccer ball.

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