Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Protested and Provoked, Police Show Restraint in Ferguson

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Protested and Provoked, Police Show Restraint in Ferguson

Article excerpt

While the nation reacted with shock after Monday's images of raging fires and rampant looting in Ferguson, Mo., somewhat overlooked has been the restraint shown by area police toward hundreds of peaceful protesters - even those engaging in civil disobedience.

Monday night did not go as planned, with only about 700 members of the National Guard deployed, mostly after the violence had already spiraled out of control. There were conflicting reasons for the late deployment, but Unified Command clearly wanted to avoid the controversial militarized police response of the Ferguson Police Department in the immediate aftermath of Mr. Brown's death.

Although a few scattered fires and smashed windows occurred Tuesday, it was a "much better night," said St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar early Wednesday morning. "We saw some protesters out there that were really out there for the right reason."

Police were bolstered by more than 2,000 members of the Missouri National Guard Tuesday. While the numbers were "perhaps alarming to some folks, I think at the same time it's probably comforting to some, because it allows us to gain that measure of control," Chief Belmar said.

In the weeks leading up to Monday's grand jury decision, in which police offer Darren Wilson was not indicted for killing black teenager Michael Brown, police had sought to foster "the most ideal" response to anticipated protests. That effort now appears to be paying off in Ferguson and across the area.

Leaders from protest groups and the St. Louis County Unified Command of local departments sat down to discuss what to expect from each other. Protest leaders had a list of 19 "rules of engagement," half of which the police generally agreed to follow, also telling protest leaders what to expect from them.

On Tuesday night, police closed off the area near the site of Brown's shooting, which had been allowed to remain open to protesters the night before. A few protesters marched to city hall, smashing windows and flipping over a police cruiser while trying to set it ablaze. But police were able to disperse the crowd with only one volley of tear gas.

Earlier Tuesday afternoon, the Unified Command's restrained approach to boisterous protests was perhaps even more apparent. …

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