A 24-hour period of calm was broken early Saturday when police returned to the streets in riot gear and some protesters began looting stores and breaking car windows.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that a festive atmosphere reigned for most of Friday night, as hundreds of people lined a busy Ferguson street, the site where a police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager nearly a week ago.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson was there to link arms and pray with protesters, says USA Today.
But a standoff developed around midnight, writes Koran Addo of the Post-Dispatch. “The groups stood about 20 feet away from one another, some police officers pointing guns at the crowd, some protesters pointing cameras at police. Police told the crowd over a loudspeaker to disperse immediately. Some in the crowd threw a few bottles at police, who didn’t initially react.
“After several minutes, police turned and left, but as they retreated, they sprayed smoke bombs and threw sound cannons at the crowd. Some responded by throwing more bottles.”
About 1:30 a.m., another confrontation took place, with protesters screaming at police. Some in the crowd broke from the ranks and began looting the convenience store allegedly robbed by the teenager shortly before he was shot and killed, says Addo.
Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd but made no arrests, AP says.
“Other protesters eventually lined up in front of the market, keeping looters from returning,” Addo continues. “Car windows and the glass around at least one bus stop were smashed as a driving rain fell.”
The scene quieted with the arrival of St. Louis Alderman Antonio French and other civic leaders.
The tumultuous night stood in sharp contrast to Thursday, when police came to the protests without tear gas or armored vehicles and walked with demonstrators and posed for photographs.
Gov. Jay Nixon put the State Highway Patrol in charge Thursday, and “the result was an atmosphere that felt more like a party,” reported Rachel Lippmann of St. Louis Public Radio.
The family of Michael Brown, the slain 18-year-old, questioned Friday why Ferguson police released a surveillance video purportedly showing Brown stealing a box of cigars shortly before he was shot to death. Protesters have called it an attempt to influence public opinion.
“They feel it was aimed at denigrating their son,” Brown family lawyer Anthony Grey told reporters. “It was a character assassination attempt.”
Police Chief Thomas Jackson said Friday that the officer who shot Brown is Darren Wilson, 28.
“Jackson says Wilson is gentle and distinguished; a cop with no complaints in six years on duty,” reports Frank Morris for NPR’s Newscast desk. “Jackson says the video shows Brown committing a strong-arm robbery minutes before Wilson shot him.”