Ferguson quiet on Thanksgiving

NOVEMBER 27, 2014

After two days of racially-charged protests sparked by a grand jury decision not to prosecute a white policeman who shot dead an unarmed black teenager, the streets of Ferguson, Missouri were mostly quiet overnight on Thursday – the day of Thanksgiving in the US.

Cold weather also kept many indoors across the state and other parts of the Midwest and the East Coast, although hundreds demonstrated against the killing in the California cities of Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego.

In the UK

Several protesters also held up banners reading ‘Solidarity with Ferguson’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’ outside the US Embassy in London.

Among them was the family of Mark Duggan, who was shot dead by police in north London in 2011, prompting Britain's worst civil unrest for decades.


The suburb of Ferguson in St. Louis, Missouri, first erupted into violent mass protests after a white police officer, Darren Wilson, 28, shot and killed an 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9.

Wilson, who is now on administrative leave, has maintained that he acted in self-defence and out of fear for his life.

Grand jury decision not to indict

Ferguson became an epicenter of national outrage again on Tuesday a St. Louis County grand jury – consisting of randomly picked jurors – nine white and three black, declined to indict Wilson on criminal charges on Monday.

According to observers, the case has exposed long-running strains in Ferguson between its predominantly black residents and its mostly white politicians and police.

It has also focused global attention on the state of race relations in the United States and evoked memories of other cases, including the fatal shooting of black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012.

Calming down

Late on Wednesday, a few dozen protesters huddled in falling snow outside Ferguson's police headquarters, in sharp contrast to the scenes of arson, looting, sporadic gunfire and clashes with police on Monday and, to a lesser extent, Tuesday.


Ferguson businesses were either boarded-up or burned along a mile-long stretch of West Florissant Avenue, which bore the brunt of Monday’s lawlessness, and downtown streets between the police department and City Hall.

Demonstrations spread to a dozen or more major US cities by Tuesday, culminating in at least 400 arrests nationwide.

Several hundred protesters blocked traffic as they marched through downtown Los Angeles, yelling, "No justice, no peace" on Wednesday. Police said more than 50 were arrested for disobeying orders to disperse.

At least 200 people ran through streets in Oakland, California, spraying walls, billboards and bus stops with graffiti and smashing storefront windows, before they were confronted by police near City Hall.

In San Diego, about 300 protesters with a heavy police escort marched peacefully through the City Heights district chanting, "Ferguson, we've got your back".

National Guard troops deployed

In and around Ferguson, around 2 200 National Guard troops called out by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon were backing up local police.

"The ramped-up presence and action of the Missouri National Guard has been helpful," Nixon said on Wednesday after facing criticism for not deploying enough troops in the immediate hours after the grand jury's decision was announced Monday evening.

The United States' first black president, Barack Obama, made cautious comments immediately after the Ferguson shooting, but on Monday said that deep distrust existed between police and minorities and that "communities of color aren't just making these problems up."

St. Louis police said three people were arrested at a protest near City Hall on Wednesday in which activists staged a mock trial of Wilson.

Racial tensions

Sixty-three percent of Ferguson's 21,000 residents are African-American and 34 percent white, according to 2010 U.S. Census data. Ferguson's mayor, James Knowles, is white, as are most of its city council members.

A 2013 state attorney general's report found more than 85 percent of motorists pulled over in the city were black, and the arrest rate for black people was twice that for white people.

The Justice Department has been investigating whether to bring federal civil rights charges against Wilson and the Ferguson police department.

Photo caption: In the centre of the violence, police officer, Darren Wilson.