FERGUSON, Mo. — For a third night, summer rage pitted the people of Ferguson against those sworn to protect them.
Protests against police brutality turned contentious early Monday evening, leading to a standoff between several dozen local residents and dozens of officers in full riot gear just blocks from where Brown was gunned down.
In an attempt to disperse the crowd, officers made their way down West Florissant, a main street in Ferguson. When some residents, chanting “Don’t shoot, my hands are up,” refused to leave, officers began deploying tear gas.
“I’m under siege,” said Donald Harry, whose house sits at the corner of West Florissant and Nesbit, where residents gathered and yelled at police who approached.
The previous night, rioters shot out the back window of the black SUV that sits in Harry’s driveway. Tonight, however, it was the police he was worried about.
“I’ve got my family in here,” Harry said, pointing back to his home as a tear gas canister landed in his yard, ignited and sent him and this reporter ducking behind shrubbery.
As police moved up West Florissant, many residents said they were trapped. The neighborhood consists of a series of cul-de-sacs with one main road — West Florissant, now blocked by police — stretching between them.
“I was just trying to get to my sister’s house,” cried one 23-year-old, who lay sobbing on a lawn.
He said he was walking home when officers approached him and sprayed tear gas in his face and peppered him with rubber bullets.
“These m———— came out of the cut and sprayed me in the face like this is a f—– video game or something.” the man said. His friends pleaded with an ambulance to hurry, and a neighbor offered to drive him to the hospital.
“I don’t need a hospital,” the man yelled. “This is my home.”
The police activity only further incited the crowd, with some people lying in the street with their hands in the air. “Don’t shoot!” they chanted. “Go home, killers.”
Others fled, crying out for water as stinging tear gas bit at their eyes.
“I had to go back for my sister,” explained 18-year-old Travis Hollins, who ripped off his shirt as tears streamed from his eyes. His 21-year-old sister had fallen near a tear gas canister, he explained, so he had run back into the fray to help her.
As police continued to press forward, they demanded that residents “get out of the street,” “return to your homes” and “go home now.”
In turn, residents responded: “These are our homes.”
At one point, a beat-up Cadillac approached the police line with NWA’s “F— the Police” playing loudly from its speakers.
“You have a son, I have a daughter,” the woman in the passenger seat could be heard pleading with the male driver. “Let’s go home now.”
“No, I’m tired of putting up with this,” the man declared, driving closer to the police.
As the night wore on, residents regrouped. Many refused to leave. Others were physically incapable.
“This is beyond Mike Brown; this is about all of us,” said Edward Crawford, 25.
“The looting was wrong, but so is this. This is excessive force,” he said as a tear gas canister landed just behind him.
The residents slowly dispersed over the course of several hours, with about two dozen remaining late into the night.
“This is not right, this is just not right,” cried Carl Union, 27, who carried a sign reading: “Justice for Mike Brown.”
The final standoff came just before 11 p.m. Officers backed up their formation almost all the way to the housing complex where Brown was shot.
As they regrouped, the two dozen residents who remained outside approached with hands in the air.
“Can we go home? Do we need our hands up? Are you going to shoot us?”
The police, weapons at the ready, responded by telling them to stop asking questions and “just go home.”
Moments later, the cops pressed forward and cleared the street for good. As they passed, some remaining protesters threw rocks, and residents shouted from their windows: “This is our home. Leave us alone.”
As he ran past this reporter, a middle-aged man summed up the terrifying feeling that permeated the now-quiet Ferguson streets:
“And this is only day three….”