Antonio French describes how protesters tried to stop looters Live
I left the scene at 4AM, after police disbanded their line and almost all protesters and looters were gone from West Florissant. #Ferguson
I 1st left the area around 11:30. Things were peaceful & rainy. I took my wife home & was hoping for a good night's sleep. Then got a text.
The text said, "Uh I think something popped off at the liquor store in ferguson". I put back on my clothes and raced down W. Florisant.
By the time I arrived, the police were gone, as were the tear gas and smoke. Based on previous nights, that seemed strange. #Ferguson
A photojournalist friend told me what they saw a few minutes before...
They said after a tense standoff following an individual throwing a bottle at an officer, police were pulling back...
They said as police and the tanks were DRIVING AWAY they shot tear gas into the crowd, "Like a big fuck you," they said. #Ferguson
Based on later conversations, I don't know if that use of tear gas was authorized. But sure did make getting ppl calmed down more difficult.
When I arrived, I saw the men-to-boy ratio was not favorable. There wasn't the same number of leaders on the scene as the night before.
Then another standoff. Myself and others tried to hold back the crowd. I pleaded for both sides to stand down. http://t.co/0D8qOnxdxV
"We appreciate you, but we don't need you," one of the young men told me. He said they were ready for war. "We sick of this shit." #Ferguson
I really was about to lose hope of being able to keep the two sides apart. Then Anthony Shahid arrived. His presence helped redirect them.
Shahid said something to 1 of the men who I saw as being a real instigator of escalation. Whatever he said, he was on our team immediately.
Shahid then got the crowd to agree to hold their position while he and I went over to see Captain Johnson.
We agreed that another violent confrontation could be avoided if we got the crowd to move away from the police line back to Ferguson Ave.
Shahid also got police to agree to stop shouting instructions on the loudspeaker, which agitated the crowd, making our task more difficult.
We went back. It took some speeches, 1-on-1 conversations, some hugs, some gentle pushes, even a line of interlocked arms to move them back.
Others helping to push back the crowd included @Patricialicious and some strong young people determined to keep the peace.
The line did get back to Ferguson Ave, where it stayed the rest of the night. Objective #1: Avoiding another violent confrontation ☑️
But then some of the troublemakers, no longer supported by the crowd, started gathering separately on a nearby parking lot.
Next thing you hear is glass break. Some run through the busted door of a beauty supply store. Immediately, some ppl run to block them.
I'm really proud of those who ran to block looters. They tried to redirect back to the chant "Hands up! Don't shoot!" http://t.co/dARQl1xTyx
After peace had been restored there, another ruckus on the lot of Ferguson Market. Looters pulled off the plywood and entered.
Again, protestors quickly arrived and block the entrance. I got in the middle. "We are better than this," I told them. This isn't protest.
Protestors secured Ferguson Market for that time. Most of the crowd of troublemakers moved further down West Florissant, towards the QT.
I reconnected w/Shahid to discuss strategy. We knew, given the mood, even a small group of police coming to secure stores would lead to riot
We heard about guys w/guns and large Molotov cocktails ready. So to avoid violence, the ppl here had secure the businesses as best we could.
With the beauty supply and Ferguson market secured for the moment, the troublemakers moved down towards Sam's Market.
By the time I arrived, looters were already in the building. http://t.co/gnyOZfgtIg
I'm not going to lie. This sight really broke my heart. I was so disappointed in these people. And I got out my car and told them as much.
Soon some protestors arrived and tried to secure Sam's Market too.
By this time it was just around 2AM. Still too many troublemakers. Still too much anger. Still too many weapons. Still too few grown men.
Now it was kind of a waiting game. How long before the troublemakers just go home? We knew it was going to be a long night.
Quick note: I think Shahid is close to 60. I know he'd been awake since 5AM when he wakes up for prayer. This wouldn't be over till after 4.
I want to be clear: Police not coming in at this point -- even with the looting -- was a good thing. It would've gotten very violent.
I began hearing reports of threats to some of the journalists who were trying to record the troublemakers. Also some plans to set fires.
I heard that they were really determined to set Sam's Market and Ferguson Market on fire.
It became so clear the awfulness of the situation. Communities need police. But here & now, the slightest police presence enrages people.
Soon looters overran the group guarding Sam's. Soon after that we heard they started to set it on fire. The young guy with me ran towards.
That young man ran top speed into the broken glass opening into Sam's Market, where some smoke and a small flame could be seen.
When I arrived he had an armful of grape soda 2-litter bottles & was pouring it on the small flame. I grabbed one of the bottles and helped.
Still not fully satisfied, the troublemakers hopped in their cars & started doing donuts in the now completely empty lanes of W. Florissant.
Others started taking license plates off their cars. "They're going to Walmart," someone said. And soon, after more car tricks, they left.
The police w/their assault weapons, tank-like vehicles, and gas bombs, held their line and had not left yet. Only a few people remained.
Then out of nowhere a white Suburban with all it windows down sped quickly up W. Florissant past our line and towards the police...
Police raised their rifles and trained them on the vehicle as it quickly approached and then suddenly stopped just a few yards from police.
"Hey! Hey! Hey! WTF?!" and "Brother, what are you doing?!" could be heard from the crowd. The vehicle began to back up slowly.
As he backed up past me and then began making a U-turn to go back where he came from, I could see a shiny silver handgun in his right hand.
Quick note: My out-of-town followers should know that in the State of Missouri it is legal to drive around with your handgun.
It was nearing 4AM. The street was bare and I had heard a report that indeed they did go to Walmart. Soon police began to leave the area.
I was exhausted. A lot of us exchanged handshakes and hugs. Then I hopped in my car and drove home, saddened by the lost #PeaceInFerguson.