When Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson said in an early Tuesday morning press conference that 31 more people had been arrested overnight in Ferguson, he noted that not everyone arrested was from Ferguson. Some were from California and New York, and they were there deliberately to make trouble. Said Johnson: “Our officers came under heavy gunfire. This was not an act of protesters. This was an act of violent criminals.”
Johnson asserted that the arrests underscore that outsiders are the ones making trouble during the protests that ensued after the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown, 18, by a Ferguson police officer.
It happened at about 9:40 p.m. last night “when bottles were thrown from the middle and the edge of the crowd. These criminal acts came from a tiny minority of troublemakers,” explained Johnson. These acts were committed by those determined to extend and expand the riots and not by those peaceably protesting: “Protesters are peaceful and respectful. They don’t clash with police. They don’t throw Molotov cocktails.” He displayed two guns and a Molotov cocktail officers had seized from some of those arrested.
Johnson didn’t get much support from a politician from St. Louis who claimed that the rioters were just boys letting off steam and that little could be done about that. Said Anthony Bell, a ward committeeman from St. Louis, 10 miles southeast of Ferguson, the protesters are just “releasing frustrations. We’ve got to let them vent.” Besides, there is little Johnson could do to control them anyway, he said: “To get them to go home is going to be difficult. The young people who come into the world nowadays, they have minds of their own.”
One of those from out of town was Marc Lamont Hill, a contributor from CNN, who observed the violence being wrought in Ferguson by outsiders firsthand:
It was a peaceful rally. I was at the rally, at the church….
I was standing there talking to them. They said they were committed to having a peaceful march….
Two things seemed apparent to me: one was that [some] young people … moved beyond an area that [was restricted]: the command center. They attempted to enter that area … somebody did.
Second … there is a small group of people who are doing something different and out-of-step from everyone else. They’re out-of-towners. The ones [in that group that] I spoke to are actually from Oakland. I saw them last night past curfew. I saw them this morning. They are the ones who initiated violence.