A riot broke out in a St. Louis suburb late Sunday following a planned rally and candlelight vigil for Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager shot and killed by a police officer on Saturday.
After a few thousand people paid their respects at the vigil Sunday evening, some took to the streets of Ferguson, Mo., blocking traffic, smashing windows and looting stores.
“It could have been one of your kids,” Charles Staton, 35, yelled at police officers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. “Protect and serve. They aren’t protecting.”
Television footage showed people standing on police cars, vandalizing vehicles and taunting officers clad in riot gear, the Associated Press reported. Some were seen looting a QuikTrip and a Wal-Mart, according to the Post-Dispatch. People also looted a check-cashing store, a boutique and a small grocery store, making off with goods, including bottles of alcohol. And at least one fire was reported.
KSDK-TV reported Ferguson police called in 60 additional officers as well as officers from other jurisdictions to contain the crowd. Then, just after midnight, the station reported police were using tear gas to curb violence.
“My nose is burning, my eyes are burning, my throat is burning and officers nearby are dealing with this too,” station reporter Elizabeth Matthews said in a live report.
Earlier in the day, a few hundred protesters assembled outside Ferguson Police headquarters. Many marched into a nearby police building and chanted “Don’t shoot me” while holding up their hands. Officers didn’t use force and the crowd left, according to news reports. There were no immediate reports of injuries on Sunday, but Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson told KTLA-TV at least 20 police vehicles were damaged that evening.
Asked about the number of arrests early Monday morning, an operator at the Ferguson Police Department told The Washington Post, “I cannot release any information at this time.” He did not identify himself.
“Right now, the small group of people are creating a huge mess,” Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said, according to the AP. “Contributing to the unrest that is going on is not going to help. … We’re only hurting ourselves, only hurting our community, hurting our neighbors. There’s nothing productive from this.”
Knowles added, “We’re going to obviously try to urge calm.”
County Police Chief Jon Belmar said Brown, 18, and another man got into a struggle with a police officer on Saturday afternoon. One of the men allegedly shoved the officer back into his squad car. A shot was fired from the officer’s gun inside the vehicle. And the struggle spilled out onto the street, where Brown was shot multiple times, according to the AP.
KTLA reported that witnesses claim Brown, who was unarmed, had his hands in the air when the officer shot and killed him.
The race of the officer is not known, but the incident drew criticism from civil rights leaders who compared the shooting to that of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, a black teen killed by George Zimmerman in Florida in 2012.
“We’re outraged because yet again a young African-American man has been killed by law enforcement,” said John Gaskin, who serves on the NAACP’s board of directors.
Belmar said the officer was placed on paid administrative leave.