With 47 Arrests Last Night, Are Tensions Really Calming in Ferguson?

After days of tear gas, rubber bullets, drawn guns and a contentious battle of words and wills, last night marked “a different dynamic” in Ferguson, Mo., according to Capt. Ronald S. Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol who is overseeing security. But with 47 arrests last night, the ongoing presence of the National Guard, and no change in policing tactics, are tensions really calming in Ferguson?

Police are citing the presence of fewer protestors on the street as the cause of the changed mood, noting that there were no shootings or Molotov cocktails Tuesday night. Protestors, however, tell a different story. Though their peaceful assembly on Tuesday night ended with prayer, 47 activists were still arrested. The New York Times is reporting that police cracked down on protestors who flung bottles of water and urine at authorities, but that they did not resort to the more violent suppression of previous nights. However, protestors are still concerned about the “static assembly” policing tactic that essentially requires protestors to be on the move at all times, with police threatening to arrest even elderly and disabled protestors who seem to be idling. Police have also been dropping into the crowd to arrest individuals, creating a charged atmosphere that may or may not hold.

Officials and protestors note that there have been more peaceful evenings before — followed by crowd skirmishes and huge shows of force by police. However, the situation is difficult to gauge due to police efforts to prevent journalists from embedding with protestors and the arrests of 12 or more journalists covering the protests. Though Ferguson police insist that they are unable to distinguish journalists from civilians, they have also been threatening individuals with cameras – not exactly conducive to a clear understanding of Ferguson from the ground.

The more relaxed evening may also be due to the announcement that a grand jury will convene today to look into the fatal shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson. The probe will investigate the criminal case, but some protestors are still concerned that a traditional criminal case via the courts does not appear to be in process. Wary protestors were also dismayed to hear that the inquiry could stretch into October or later, which is not exactly the swift justice being demanded by protestors who say that they won’t rest until Darren Wilson has been arrested and charged with homicide. The probe is launching aside word that the FBI and United States Department of Justice will begin a federal civil rights inquiry into the actions of Ferguson police.

The situation in Ferguson has sparked more than protest; it’s shining a light on a pervasive blend of racial intolerance and police authoritarianism in the United States. And the divisions run deep. Take this op-ed from the Washington Post, in which a Los Angeles Police Department officer states what could just as well be a battle cry for a system run riot: “…if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you.” Perhaps if the police force in Ferguson resembled its community — or at least didn’t disproportionately arrest blacks or weren’t armed by the Department of Defense – opinions like this would ring truer to protestors concerned about their right to assemble, their safety on the streets and in their homes, and the future of black Americans who are subject to discrimination and harassment on a daily basis.

Whether or not tensions continue to simmer in St. Louis and beyond, the standoff in Ferguson shines light on what the Pew Institute is calling “stark racial divisions.” As iconic imagery and deeply charged conversation continues to billow from Ferguson like so much tear gas, it’s unclear whether the fault lines it has revealed — racial foment, the militarization of suburban police departments, twitchy policing techniques, the expression of First and Fifth Amendment rights and even human rights — are ones that can continue to be patched or overlooked. It’s another humid day in Ferguson, but how will it feel tonight?

Photo Credit: Peoples World via Flickr

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Ernest Roth
Ernest R.about a year ago

@ Barry T. "we live in a post-racial society" Sorry, the races are still identifiable. They are bound to be homogenized eventually, but then we will lose a big part of the wonderful diversity that makes us great. Win some, lose some.@ Catherine D. "SCOTUS has given the police the authority, at their whim, to imprison, maim and murder any Citizen that they select". Wow, when did he do that ? Better watch what you say, Catherine.@ Steven G. "to see how far they will go in demanding justice". They use the word "justice" but what they are demanding is lynching.@ Cecily w. ". This Ferguson situation appears to be black-white" It does. It ignores hundreds of shooting of blacks by other blacks, but riots about a shooting of a black man by a white one. That is racist.

Ernest Roth
Ernest R.about a year ago

@ Kamia T. "our entire society is becoming more and more segmented by race, creed, ethnicity or political division" That can't be right. You are referring to our wonderful diversity that makes America great ! The melting pot is still melting and the white majority is quickly becoming a minority. Words like mulatto and quadroon no longer are applicable [ except in the case of our president ] because the racial mixture makes proportions of Heinz 57 racial identity impossible to determine. Creed ? We have Muslim immigrants that haven't gone to Iraq to become terrorists. We have blacks that aren't demanding a murder conviction before a trial. Political division? We have widespread agreement for "a pox on both their houses".

Vicky P.
Vicky P.about a year ago


Deborah W.
Deborah W.about a year ago

Find it hard to believe that the 47 arrests cited were locals, especially after reading an earlier account that of a prior 163 arrests only SEVEN were local Ferguson residents.

Guess the race-baiters and hate-mongers are still being brought in to keep their agenda alive and well. Hopefully it is becoming obvious to all what's being tried here.

Matt L.
Matt L.about a year ago

Donn M. wrote: "quite frankly I think looters should be shot on sight."

Because some merchandise is worth more than human life? Your priorities are really F'ed up.

john hall
john hallabout a year ago

Let's see when you have race hustlers or evil ass people like obama,holder,jackson,sharpton,the gov and a state senator running their sick twisted mouth's you will never find peace....I don't have a problem with saying i think the officer was justified in killing Brown because by the evidence he attacked him...but i can only hope the grand jury looks at all the evidence and makes the right call. It's a damn shame you have Democratic Missouri State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal also making threats.

Stardust Noel
Stardust Noelabout a year ago

Deborah W. is right, If people who don't live there would stop sticking their noses into Ferguson's business, it would be a lot better, these are the ones who love chaos.Go home & mind your own business.

Barry T.
Barry AWAY T.about a year ago

I am just so relieved that the President ahs assured us (at least in the past) that we live in a post-racial society.

Which means I must be imgining all this ...

Aud nordby
Aud nordbyabout a year ago


Spencer Young
Spencer Youngabout a year ago

Truth, justice and equality would go a long way in calming tensions between us all