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Anger Grows Again in Ferguson Over Burned Memorial, Delayed Indictment

Protests erupted on the streets of Ferguson after Mike Brown's memorial mysteriously burned down and a decision on Darren Wilson's fate was pushed to January.

by Alice Speri
Sep 24 2014, 5:55pm

Photo by Jacob Crawford/AP

Protesters returned to the streets of Ferguson on Tuesday night, in a scene reminiscent of the days of unrest that followed the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9.

A couple hundred people took to West Florissant — the stage of this summer's protests and police show of force — angry over the destruction of one of the memorials for Brown, which burnt down Tuesday morning under circumstances that remain unclear.

The evening protest erupted into violence, with a small group smashing the windows of a local beauty supplies store, and throwing rocks at police, according to local reports. Police said at least seven people were arrested.

Later in the evening, as police moved to clear the remaining protesters, six shots were reportedly fired from the entrance to the Canfield Green apartments — where Brown was killed. Nobody was hit. 

Ferguson residents are still angry as questions remain and protests continue. Read more here.

Contradicting police reports of looting, the store's owner told local reporters that nothing was stolen. It was the third time the Beauty Town store was caught up in the unrest.

Juan Santos, manager of Beauty Town, said he had just replaced the windows last week. He replaced them with boards once again, saying that he "will probably leave them up for a while now," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Brown's memorial, which was built on a sidewalk on Canfield Drive, by the site where the teen laid on the ground for four hours after being shot down, was razed to the ground in a fire around 6:30am Tuesday.

Local residents promptly rebuilt the memorial — "better and bigger," as some of them said. Theories abounded on what set off the fire, but many said they didn't believe it was an accident, and expressed outrage at what they saw as an insult to Brown's memory.

"These are purposefully done actions to try to push the hand of the people," Aha Sen Piankhy, a member of the local New Black Panthers Party that was a regular presence at the protests earlier this summer and worked to keep the crowd under control, told VICE News. "Trying to get them to push forward and do something outrageous and push martial law into the city. And it's not happening."

The fire only added to growing resentment over the delayed justice process.

"People are gonna come out, people are gonna pile up into the streets because of the total disrespect," Piankhy said. "You don't do nothing like that. That's a memorial, that's like walking into a graveyard and setting a graveyard on fire. Some things you don't do. So yeah, people are gonna come out into the streets, definitely."

Ferguson police said they are investigating the fire, and asked for anyone with information to share it.

Justice Department launches civil rights investigation of Ferguson police. Read more here.

"We're all saddened by the fire that was reported at one of the Michael Brown memorials this morning and are trying to obtain as much information as possible to determine what happened," police chief Tom Jackson said in a statement. "To anyone who believes we didn't do everything in our power to put this fire out I want to apologize and let you know that was not the case."

A local police officer that first arrived on the scene of the fire was not equipped to put it out, Jackson explained, and alerted the fire department. But residents on the scene said that police "watched Mike Brown's memorial burn."

Earlier Tuesday, officials had also called off the annual Ferguson Music Festival, citing safety concerns. 

Those who protested Brown's death remain angry that authorities have failed to arrest and indict Wilson. A grand jury that has been considering the evidence of the case was due to make a decision on whether to charge him — but they were granted an extension to do so until January 7.

To many in Ferguson, the delay is sign that justice is unlikely to come — and protesters who took to the streets on Tuesday once again reiterated one of this summer's slogans, "no justice, no peace," and demanded Wilson's arrest.

Videos via Instagram

The protests may be winding down but Ferguson's fight is not over. Read more here.

"See, here's the thinking in the city: they think that black folks won't come out in the middle of the cold to protest if they let him go," Piankhy said. "Seriously, that's their thinking. January and February are our coldest months in St. Louis. They think nobody will come out, we won't have a reaction."

"What they don't understand is this is St. Louis," he added. "Don't nobody care about cold weather when you want justice. People will come out. This ain't Florida. And that's the mentality that's running around: this ain't Florida, you won't get away with this."

On a website created by local residents to connect the Ferguson "movement," a countdown topped the page: "# of days that Darren Wilson has remained free: 47. % of Americans that say that black receive equal treatment under the criminal justice system: 38. # of days until January 7, 2015: 105." 

Watch VICE News' dispatches from Ferguson here.

Follow Alice Speri on Twitter: @alicesperi

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