The air of tension blistering in the days leading-up to the grand jury decision on the fate of Officer Darren Wilson, the Ferguson cop who fatally shot unarmed black teen Michael Brown, combusted across the country Monday night after it was announced that Wilson would not be indicted.
Minutes after the St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch released the 12-panel jury decision just after 8pm, demonstrations flared in cities from New York to California. Reports of looting, rock-throwing, buildings and cars being set on fire, and even reported gun shots, exposed widespread frustrations at the outcome of the case that has sparked national outrage and renewed scrutiny on racially biased policing in recent months.
In the town where Wilson shot 18-year-old Brown on August 9, thousands of protesters faced off with police who lobbed tear gas and smoke canisters and used pepper spray to disperse the crowds. At least a dozen buildings were burned and looted overnight and intermittent gunfire rang out in some neighborhoods, with police saying Monday night's turmoil was the worst they'd seen yet.
Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden was among the crowd assembled outside Ferguson police headquarters last night.
"They still don't care, they're never going care," she said, bursting into tears. "They're never going to pay… It's so wrong."
At least 150 gunshots were heard last night — none allegedly fired by officers — and one policeman was hit by a bullet, but not seriously wounded, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters at a conference early Tuesday. Remnants of fires continued to smolder in the town throughout the morning.
Several hundred protesters near the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis — where another black teen, VonDerrit Myers Jr., was shot in early October — squared up to a line of riot police after the announcement Monday night. The demonstrators chanted, "hands up, don't shoot" and "black lives matter;" two cries that have become synonymous with the Ferguson protests that have erupted in waves over several months.
Police departments across the country were on high alert in anticipation of violence Monday night following the decision, while Demonstrators across the country quickly took the streets in solidarity with Ferguson protesters.
After a night of mainly peaceful marches through the streets of Seattle, Washington, five people were arrested for throwing rocks, bottles, and canned food at police, according to the Associated Press.
In Oakland, California tensions also heated up after the announcement. Protesters set fires in the streets and looted stores, including a Starbucks and a Smart & Final. Video of the blaze shows thick smoke rising above a crowd chanting "Ferguson, Ferguson, Ferguson."
In cities including Salt Lake City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Cleveland — where a policeman fatally shot a 12-year-old boy with a toy gun Saturday — the size of protests varied. Some rallies involved dozens, while others drew hundreds of demonstrators who blocked roads, congregated in parks, and clashed with police in the late hours of Monday and into the early morning.
Outside the White House, people held placards reading "Justice for Mike Brown" and chanted "Black lives matter," while others sang a mournful requiem. Over 300 more marched through downtown Washington DC, and blocked roads, though police say the protests were mostly peaceful.
New York City's march ended in a red hot mess for Police Commissioner Bill Bratton after a protester hurled a bag full of fake blood at police officers and officials from the crowd of roughly 1,000 gathered in the Times Square. A man was later arrested over the incident, the NYPD said.
Scuffles reportedly also broke out between riot police and hundreds of protesters who marched along the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, blocking traffic along the roadway that connects Manhattan to Queens and the Bronx.
Protests continued on Tuesday, with more than 100 rallies reportedly planned in cities like Chicago, Illinois, Birmingham, Alabama, and Portland, Oregon.
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