The Free Thought Project's Cassandra Rules was in the heart of the chaos. With dramatic images and videos, she recounts the events immediately following the announcement of the grand jury's decision not to indict Darren Wilson.
Ferguson, MO-- Demonstrators in Ferguson made good on their repeated promises to "shut sh*t down" on Monday evening when the state decided to make the poor decision of announcing the lack of charges for the killer cop after dark, almost seeming like they were hoping for chaos.
The evening before the decision, this quote from The Hunger Games was put up, in the area where VonDerrit Myers was killed, and they meant it.
The scene at the Ferguson PD when we arrived on Monday evening was not unlike many of the other evenings we have spent there, except there were a lot more people, and a lot more press. As the press conference began, people huddled around a loud speaker broadcasting the announcement from someone's IPhone. The crowd was absolutely silent as we all held our breath, knowing that this decision not only decided if there would be justice for Mike Brown, but also would potentially make it official that in the United States, in 2014, you can kill an unarmed teenage black boy in broad daylight with impunity, and never even be arrested- let alone face trial.
The other thought running through everyone's mind was that this decision could potentially put us all in danger of reckless police and chaos in a matter of moments.
As those words "no indictment" began to echo through the crowd and people shook their heads in sorrow and disappointment, nothing mattered. For a few moments it felt like the world just stopped.
Reality quickly snapped back with the crash of the police barricade, and riot police moving towards us. Half of the crowd ran, half remained. Next there were the gun shots. Press stood around cluelessly asking other journalists if it was actually gunshots as those of us with brains dropped and moved into safety.
Once it quieted down, a large portion of the crowd began to march towards where the sound came from. I walked around in a mild daze for a bit, live streaming and noting how it seemed eerily calm and quiet.
Several people were yelling in outrage, many others stood silently and cried. Some began tossing objects at the heavily shielded riot police. In what seemed like hours later, but was actually only minutes, sounds of broken glass began to fill the street from the direction many had marched in.
Upon arriving at the scene about a block and a half away from the department, a group of people had begun to flip a police vehicle. The car was trickier to flip than anticipated however, and smashing began.
By 9:20pm at least that one cop car was on fire. Confusion grew in the chaos as police began firing off tear gas, smoke grenades, and flash bangs into the crowd. Those who wanted to escape from the rebellion were left with little options, as riot police had blocked off most areas and gunshots rang out around the crowd several times.
Those who wanted to film were intimidated and also hit with the gas and smoke filled air. Officers repeated over and over "stop throwing rocks at police" and continuously threatened to arrest anyone who did not disperse.
Upon moving closer it was clear a second car was on fire. Loud pops were coming from the flames, reportedly from shells going off inside the blazing vehicles.
Many of us ran up the hill across from the police department to escape the projectiles the police were launching as well as the potential chemical weapons filling the streets.
A little way up the hill, a woman was on the ground surrounded by people trying to help her with an obvious medical issue. It seemed to be as under control as something could be in a situation like this, so I moved to an area over looking the PD to see what was happening.
Things appeared to be slightly calmer for the moment (I use the word "calmer" loosely), so I walked back down to take some photos of the heavily armed police in SWAT vehicles. When I arrived back down, heavy commotion was heard coming down the hill. I ran over to see what was happening and several people were carrying the woman to the police yelling that she was hurt and needed help. They kept repeating she was having a heart attack. For a moment I forgot how inhuman police are trained to be and thought they were going to help her.
As the police fired flash bangs, tear gas, and smoke grenades at this woman and the human beings trying to help her, I was filled with a disgust like nothing I have ever felt.
I ducked for cover and tried to run backwards to see if the woman was alright while escaping the chaos that the police were unleashing upon someone in a medical emergency.
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At this point I had to go get away and breathe. I headed away from the police department and was completely separated from everyone I knew. As I walked down the sidewalk alone, people smashed out glass of store fronts around me and expressed their internal rage and pain in a very physical manner, yet I was not afraid, because the police were already over a block behind me and they were the only ones I personally feared.
Eventually I met up with everyone and we received word that Walgreens was on fire. Smoke billowed from the door as we approached. The fire department was about a block away attempting to put out the fire at Little Caesar's pizza. There were no police or firemen at the pharmacy until ten minutes later when three officers came to block the doorway. In case anyone wanted to rush into a burning building?
We next attempted to head over to W. Florrisant, cops were turning cars away and issuing them warnings through loud speakers. We pulled up anyways and asked to be allowed through as press. An officer with a large rifle checked press passes and told us we may park.
The scene could only be described as apocalyptic. Only heavily armed police and a few scattered photographers were on the empty street. Broken glass from the Ferguson Market and McDonalds glittered on the pavement as pieces of the former beauty supply store periodically came crashing down in what was left of the burning building.
A similar scene awaited when we arrived over on W. Florrisant and Chambers. A plaza containing a beauty supply store and a laundry mat was burning. Across the street a much larger fire was lighting the night sky.
As we drove around we saw the police pointing their guns at a man who was kneeling on the ground. As I attempted to take a video from the car one of the officers turned around with his gun pointed towards us, and then towards the street. We had to leave the scene, I really hope this man is still breathing.
There was a gas station burning.
There was a vehicle in another gas station burning.
Several cars in a dealership were on fire.
These were all fires I was on the scene for, there were possibly more. Out of all of these blazes the only one I saw any attempts to contain was the fire at Little Caesars, despite reports that someone may have been inside the Walgreens.
Once again the police showed no interest in stopping any actual crimes or protecting the safety of anyone. These officers simply seemed to overly enjoy the opportunity to shoot large projectiles indiscriminately into a crowd like they were playing a video game- well, a video game that required no precision.
Governor Jay Nixon, you have really outdone yourself. I am slow clapping in your general direction at the complete mastery of allowing chaos (again) and taking it out on peaceful protestors and media as your heavily armored (and armed) army fails to stop actual emergencies because they are "dangerous."
I mean- your troops let gas stations burn- but hey- at least you really nailed that dork with CNN and a woman having a medical emergency.
Great job "protecting" your city.