FERGUSON, Mo — On Thursday evening, protestors initially gathered blocks away from where a police officer shot Michael Brown on Saturday, August 9.
Carrying signs that demanded justice and police accountability, thousands lined West Florissant Avenue. Other demonstrators coalesced around a police station on South Florissant Road.
A local QuikTrip convenience store, which was burned down earlier in the week, served as the center of gravity for the demonstrations on West Florissant Avenue.
Thursday’s protests stood in stark contrast to the tense atmosphere that had consumed the Ferguson community only 24 hours before, when local police equipped with military-grade weapons and armored personnel carriers used tear gas and rubber bullets in a failed attempt to quell protestors.
On Thursday evening, the police presence on West Florissant Avenue was noticeably absent, save for a police helicopter flying above which drew jeers every time it focused its spotlight on the crowd below.
Representatives from the New Black Panther Party and the Nation of Islam directed traffic, checking vehicles for weapons and urging fellow demonstrators to remain calm. Representatives from both movements cited the lack of police provocation as the main explanation for why Thursday night’s protests were markedly less volatile than previous demonstrations.
Throughout the evening, protestors chanted, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” which, in tandem with the more well-known protest slogan, “No Justice, No Peace,” has become a common refrain over the last week.
One such demonstrator was 3-year-old Sincere Howard, who, at the prompting of his father, Seab Howard, threw his hands in the air and said, “don’t shoot.”
At one point early Friday morning, at which time the demographics of the protestors on the streets skewed decidedly younger and more male than it had earlier, police vehicles from the city of Fenton arrived in the lot of Ferguson Market & Liquor on West Florissant Avenue.
Demonstrators quickly rushed toward the vehicles, holding up their hands and yelling, “Don’t Shoot.” Others, began throwing glass bottles and batteries at the police officers, who immediately returned to their vehicles and peeled out of the parking lot.
The minor skirmish ended quickly, but effectively served as an unfortunate coda to an otherwise peaceful night of protesting. Some protestors viewed the retreat by police officers as a victory for the community, asserting that they had successfully defended their turf. Others chastised their fellow demonstrators for resorting to violence.