Fourth night of protests in Ferguson ends in chaos, tear gas, arrests

[This post has been updated.]

On the fourth night, there were more arrests, more molotov cocktails and more tear gas, gunfire and chaos in Ferguson, Mo.

After a day of largely peaceful — if carefully watched — protests over the Saturday killing of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer, night fell — and any semblance of order was gone.

Throughout the day on Wednesday, police in Ferguson had greeted protesters in riot gear, semi-automatic weapons and armored vehicles. Few incidents were reported.

By nightfall, teargas canisters were being thrown to disperse crowds and armored vehicles flooded the streets with blinding lights.

There reports of at least 16 people arrested, according to KMOV 4,  including two national news reporters — one of them was The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery. One officer reportedly also suffered a broken ankle in a clash with protesters, KMOV 4 said.

A St. Louis City alderman who had been a prolific documenter of the ongoing drama was also arrested late Wednesday night. Antonio French was charged with unlawful assembly, according to KMOV News, but was released at some point in the 8:00 a.m. hour on Thursday morning.

“Inside that jail is nothing but peacekeepers. They picked up the wrong people,” French told reporters after his release. “In an American city people are being tear gassed and snipers are pointing rifles at them when they are peacefully assembling.”

“Our rights are being violated. We have the right to peacefully protest 24 hours a day. Our constitutional rights don’t expire at 9:00,” he added.

Up until his arrest, French had tweeted a constant stream of images and videos from the frenetic scene. His last tweet: a Vine from the front lines showing police in full riot gear.

Michael Powers, who according to Twitter and Linkedin is the legislative aid to the president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, said he was jailed with French and charged with the same violation. But while French remained jailed, Powers was freed.

With no end in sight in the increasingly tense standoff between protesters and law enforcement, Missouri lawmakers began to take note.

Shortly after The Post’s Lowrey and the Huffington Post’s Ryan J. Reilly were arrested by police in a Ferguson McDonalds, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) tweeted that she was working the phones to force a resolution to the conflict.

“Continuing to work the phones to de escalate the tense and unacceptable situation in Ferguson,” McCaskill tweeted, adding that she had placed calls to community leaders and the head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said that he was also in contact with state local and federal officials about the situation in Ferguson.

Later, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) spoke out about the unfolding situation in his state and said he would clear his schedule and visit Ferguson on Thursday.

“The worsening situation in Ferguson is deeply troubling, and does not represent who we are as Missourians or as Americans,” Nixon said in a statement. “While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law enforcement officers to protect the public, we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern.”

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson on Wednesday had expressed a desire to scale down the show of force by police. But not long after making those statements in an interview with The Post, there was more tear gas and rubber bullets on the streets of Ferguson.

Abby Phillip is a general assignment national reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at abby.phillip@washpost.com. On Twitter: @abbydphillip
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