FERGUSON, Mo. — In the hours following Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s announcement of a state of emergency and a midnight curfew, hundreds of protesters and residents of Ferguson continued to protest along West Florissant Avenue Saturday evening even through the 12 a.m. curfew.
Demonstrators continue to demand justice in the shooting death of 18-year-old Ferguson resident Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson and many did not obey the 12 a.m. curfew only to once again experience police-deployed smoke bombs, many media outlets reported early Sunday morning.
The steady rain didn’t seem to deter crowds as they moved through the area, mostly occupying sidewalks and the now symbolic burnt out QuickTrip gas station along West Florissant. Conversation by speakers with bullhorns varied from uniting to stop oppression from police to remaining calm and sticking to the 12 a.m. curfew instituted earlier in the day.
A woman standing in the middle of the road pleaded with people driving and walking past her to, “please be out of the area by midnight.”
Nixon was joined at an earlier, raucous press conference by Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson who took charge of security in Ferguson Thursday, which seemed to cool the tension of residents calling for justice after the shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, but Friday night Ferguson businesses were again looted.
“I am committed to making sure the forces of peace and justice prevail,” Nixon said during a press conference at a church that was interrupted repeatedly by people objecting to the curfew and demanding that the officer who shot Brown be charged with murder.
“We must first have and maintain peace. This is a test. The eyes of the world are watching,” Nixon said. “We cannot allow the ill will of the few to undermine the good will of the many.”
One man, who declined to be identified but said he was from nearby Hazelwood, Mo., said he had been in Ferguson for three nights and did not think the curfew would improve the situation.
“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he said, adding police enforcing a curfew in Ferguson would just cause those doing the looting to spill into neighboring communities.
The man said he thought the mix of those in attendance Saturday evening were split “50-50” between those who want to cause problems and those who want to peacefully hear their demands heard.
At the intersection of Chambers Road and West Florissant, State Troopers denied traffic toward the burnt Quick Trip redirecting it away from the area. A mile or so north on West Florissant Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club retail stores had barricaded their entrances with shopping carts and hired security.
At a few points over the course of the evening protesters gathered at the QuickTrip took to the street and marched several blocks down to Ferguson Avenue where the MSHP had assembled a media staging area for members of the press that planned on staying in Ferguson during the curfew hours of 12 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Chants of “no justice, no police” and “hands up, don’t shoot” continued as they had for several day of protesting.
At the press conference Johnson told reporters and residents attending that police would refrain from using armored trucks and tear gas to enforce the curfew.
Johnson assured those at the news conference that police would not enforce the curfew with armored trucks and tear gas but would communicate with protesters and give them ample opportunity to leave. Nixon and Johnson were flanked by numerous local elected officials, including U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr., who urged Johnson to be flexible with the midnight curfew.
Media reports and television footage show Johnson and Nixon being interrupted several times over the course of the press conference including one woman that asked “Why is the focus on security and not getting justice? Why is there not an arrest?” and did not receive a response.
Protesters on West Florissant occasionally screamed expletives at the light police presence and requested the arrest of Wilson, but generally those protesting were passionate yet peaceful.
At Sam’s Meat Market and Liquor, site of looting the night before, people sheltered from the heavy rain that came down Saturday night. Up the street residents invited reporters from the Telegraph to join their barbecue and have bottled water.
Nixon elected to enforce a state of emergency and curfew earlier in the day after tempers flared and businesses were looted following the release of Wilson’s name. Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson also released footage implicating Brown was involved in a robbery shortly before he was killed, a move that drew the ire of Nixon, Johnson and many still grieving or protesting the death.
Wilson was placed on paid administrative leave shortly after the shooting.
Video of protesters marching on West Florissant can be found here.
This story will be updated following the midnight curfew.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Nathan Woodside can be reached at 618-208-6456 or on Twitter @NWatTelegraph.
Bob Strickley can be reached at 618-208-6446 or on Twitter @rjstrickley