At least 23 people were arrested in Ferguson, Mo. Monday night as protesters confronted police on a fourth consecutive night of demonstrations to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
St. Louis County Police spokesman Officer Shawn McGuire said early Tuesday that police were still confirming official totals.
Despite the arrests, there were no reports of injuries or violence. McGuire also said that there were no shots fired and no burglaries, looting or property damage during the protest.
Sunday night’s demonstration was thrown into chaos after by gunfire and a police shooting that left an 18-year-old critically injured. Earlier Monday, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger declared a state of emergency, which authorized county Police Chief Jon Belmar to take control of police emergency management in and around Ferguson.
By early Monday evening, hundreds of people had gathered. They marched up and down West Florissant Avenue, the thoroughfare that was the site of protests and rioting after Brown was fatally shot last year in a confrontation with a Ferguson police officer.
The protesters chanted, beat drums and carried signs. When some in the group moved into a traffic lane, officers in riot gear forced people out of the street. Some demonstrators threw water bottles and other debris at officers.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that police began to make arrests at around 10 p.m. local time. At that point, the newspaper estimated, there were approximately 50 reporters, 75 cops, and 150 protesters at the scene. At least nine people were accused of resisting or interfering with an arrest. The paper reported that more arrests were made after midnight Tuesday.
Belmar told The Associated Press: “They’re not going to take the street tonight. That’s not going to happen.”
Ferguson resident Hershel Myers Jr., 46, criticized the police response as aggressive and unnecessary.
A military veteran, he added, “It’s wrong for me to have to go overseas and fight with Army across my chest, but we can’t fight on our own street where I live.”
By 1 a.m., the crowd and police presence along West Florissant had been begun to diminish.
In all, approximately 144 protesters were arrested around the St. Louis area Monday. McGuire said that approximately 64 protesters who blocked afternoon rush-hour traffic on Interstate 70 Monday afternoon were arrested. At midday, 57 protesters demanding the dissolution of the Ferguson Police Department were arrested near the federal courthouse in St. Louis.
On Monday morning, prosecutors announced filing of ten felony charges against Tyrone Harris Jr., whom Belmar said opened fire on officers after an earlier shooting on West Florissant late Sunday. The four officers in the van fired back, then pursued the suspect on foot. The suspect again fired on the officers when he became trapped in a fenced-in area, the chief said, and all four opened fire.
Harris was in critical condition Monday after surgery. All four officers in the van, each wearing protective vests, escaped injury. They were not wearing body cameras, Belmar said.
Harris’ father called the police version of events “a bunch of lies.” He said two girls who were with his son told him he was unarmed and had been drawn into a dispute involving two groups of young people.
Tyrone Harris Sr. told The Associated Press that his son was a close friend of Michael Brown and was in Ferguson on Sunday night to pay respects.
The elder Harris said his son got caught up in a dispute among two groups of young people and was “running for his life” after gunfire broke out.
“My son was running to the police to ask for help, and he was shot,” he said. “It’s all a bunch of lies … They’re making my son look like a criminal.”
Online court records show that Tyrone Harris Jr. was charged in November with stealing a motor vehicle and a gun, as well as resisting arrest by fleeing. A court hearing in that case is scheduled for Aug. 31.
Belmar said the suspect who fired on officers had a semi-automatic 9 mm gun that was stolen last year from Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
The police chief drew a distinction between the shooters and the protesters.
“They were criminals,” he said of those involved in gunfire. “They weren’t protesters.”
Gov. Jay Nixon agreed, saying in a statement that such “reprehensible acts must not be allowed to silence the voices of peace and progress.”