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Protests, Fires Follow Announcement Of Ferguson Grand Jury's Decision

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In Ferguson, Missouri, last night, new scenes of violence.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This came after the announcement that a grand jury will not indict Darren Wilson. He's the white police officer who shot and killed the young, unarmed, black man Michael Brown in August.

MONTAGNE: Shortly after that announcement, demonstrators began clashing with police, setting buildings on fire. Here's St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar.

JON BELMAR: What I've seen tonight is probably much worse than the worst night we ever had in August.

GREENE: That is when rioting in Ferguson first caught the world's attention just after Michael Brown was killed. In his speech late last night, President Obama urged calm. And around the country, there were peaceful protests in several cities.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Hands off. Don't shoot. Hands off. Don't shoot. Hands off. Don't shoot. Hands off. Don't shoot.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Hands off. Don't shoot. Hands off. Don't shoot. Hands off. Don't shoot. Hands off. Don't shoot.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Black lives matter. Black lives matter.

MONTAGNE: Those are sounds of peaceful protests that took place in Oakland, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. For more on the reaction in Ferguson, we go to reporter Tim Lloyd.

TIM LLOYD, BYLINE: It's just after 8 p.m., and a large crowd of protesters is blocking traffic in front of the Ferguson Police Department. For months, demonstrations have been held here nightly. And now protesters are surrounding a car parked in the middle of the street with its radio on. They want to hear whether a grand jury will bring charges against Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting Michael Brown last August. In comes the news many activists have been bracing for.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: No indictment. No indictment.

LLOYD: A large group of protesters advances on police dressed in riot gear. At first the mood is tense but peaceful. Brittini Gray is a community organizer with Metropolitan Congregations United, a coalition of religious leaders that set up sanctuaries for protesters at area churches.

BRITTINI GRAY: I can't tell you what went through my mind, but what went through my heart was pain and grief.

LLOYD: Diane Morice urged for calm as more and more protesters inched their way toward the police line.

DIANE MORICE: We're angry, but I just want everyone to keep the peace. Please guys, keep the peace.

LLOYD: But that didn't happen. Only minutes later, protesters began marching down the street where police formed another line. Soon some in that crowd began hurling rocks at police in windows. Anthony Levine is with a protest group called Peace Keepers, and he tried to get between protesters and storefronts.

ANTHONY LEVINE: We're not going to let all these businesses get tore up like that.

LLOYD: But the rocks kept coming. And soon from a loudspeaker mounted atop an armored vehicle, police gave protesters this warning...

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Disperse immediately, or you will be subject to arrest. Do it now.

LLOYD: When that didn't work, they fired tear gas canisters over their heads.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Watch out, watch out, watch out.

LLOYD: About two miles away on West Florissant Avenue near where Brown was fatally shot in August, the St. Louis County Police Department reported heavy automatic gunfire. Businesses that boarded up fearing just this response were looted and set on fire. By 1:30 this morning, about a dozen buildings were burning. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said he personally heard about 150 gunshots. The FAA quickly put in a no-fly zone over areas that saw heavy protests in north St. Louis County.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) This is what democracy looks like.

LLOYD: A group of protesters gathered in South St. Louis and marched onto Interstate 44, bringing it to a standstill for an hour. And just like North St. Louis County there was vandalism here, too. Marie McMahon owns St. Louis Salon and is sweeping up broken glass after the crowds passed. She was hopeful protests would be peaceful, but then got a call from her security company.

MARIE MCMAHON: I was disappointed when I got that call because I knew what it meant, and I knew that things had changed.

LLOYD: Michael Brown's family is planning to hold a press conference early today, and more demonstrations are likely. For NPR News, I'm Tim Lloyd in St. Louis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tim Lloyd grew up north of Kansas City and holds a masters degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, Columbia. Prior to joining St. Louis Public Radio, he launched digital reporting efforts for Harvest Public Media, a Corporation for Public Broadcasting funded collaboration between Midwestern NPR member stations that focuses on agriculture and food issues. His stories have aired on a variety of stations and shows including Morning Edition, Marketplace, KCUR, KPR, IPR, NET, WFIU. He won regional Edward R Murrow Awards in 2013 for Writing, Hard News and was part of the reporting team that won for Continuing Coverage. In 2010 he received the national Debakey Journalism Award and in 2009 he won a Missouri Press Association award for Best News Feature.

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