Under State of Emergency, Ferguson Falls Into an Uneasy Calm

Police officers late on Monday night on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo. (Credit: Whitney Curtis for The New York Times)
Police officers late on Monday night on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo. (Credit: Whitney Curtis for The New York Times)

With scores of police officers in the streets and a portion of the region under a state of emergency, an edgy calm prevailed in this St. Louis suburb early Tuesday, one night after bursts of gunfire had led to fears of renewed unrest.

Although nightfall brought intermittent clashes between protesters and the police — the St. Louis County police said the authorities had made 23 arrests along West Florissant Avenue — there were few signs of widening turmoil that might draw a sterner response by local officials or by Gov. Jay Nixon, who last year deployed the National Guard here.

“During the protest events, there were no shootings, shots fired, burglaries, lootings or property damages,” the St. Louis County police said in a statement early Tuesday, not long after many officers and state troopers had left West Florissant Avenue, the street that has seen dozens of tense standoffs since a white police officer killed Michael Brown, a black teenager, on Aug. 9, 2014.

Earlier Monday night, bottles and rocks had occasionally flown through the humid summer air as hundreds of people gathered, but the police said they knew of no injuries to demonstrators or officers. Although law enforcement officials were reported to have sometimes used pepper spray to control the crowd, they said that no tear gas had been used.

Demonstrators occasionally blocked the road, and officials often responded with threats of arrest.

“This is the St. Louis County Police Department,” one officer said through a loudspeaker as other officers, many wearing riot gear, formed a skirmish line. “Get out of the roadway.”

The calm, uneasy as it sometimes seemed, stood in sharp contrast with the Ferguson of roughly 24 hours earlier, when gunfire echoed through the streets and police detectives wounded an 18-year-old man they said had shot at them. St. Louis County prosecutors on Monday filed charges against the man, Tyrone Harris Jr. of St. Louis, and said he remained hospitalized in critical condition.

The authorities said they had recovered a 9-millimeter Sig Sauer next to Mr. Harris that was reported stolen last year.

But Mr. Harris’s grandmother said that his girlfriend, who had been with him, had told her that Mr. Harris had been running across West Florissant Avenue to escape gunfire. The grandmother, Gwen Drisdel, said that she did not know whether Mr. Harris had been armed. It would not have been unreasonable for him to carry a firearm given how violent the streets are, she said, but she added, “I don’t believe that he would disrespect police like that.”

The troubles of Sunday night prompted Steve Stenger, the St. Louis County executive, to declare a state of emergency and to place Jon Belmar, the county’s police chief, in control of police operations related to protests in Ferguson. Mr. Stenger stopped short of imposing a curfew, however, as the governor did last summer, and the relative calm of Monday night raised hopes that the city had averted another enduring crisis.

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SOURCE: ALAN BLINDER, JOHN ELIGON and MITCH SMITH
The New York Times

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