The St. Louis County executive has declared a state of emergency in St. Louis after violence erupted last night, following days of peaceful events leading up to the anniversary of the Michael Brown, Junior, shooting.
Ferguson Democratic Committeewoman Patricia Bynes says she’s disappointed at that development. She says police in the past week have used different tactics during events in the past week, and she wants to see that continue.
“There’s been a lot of work. Even though it has not moved as much as we would like it to in this region; in Ferguson, in St. Louis County, in St. Louis City, we’ve done a lot of work in moving the conversation and the actions of the police and we’ve been seeing it pay off,” said Bynes. “[Police] have not been overly aggressive, there weren’t SWAT brought out initially. Even when people were blocking traffic they were able to respond level-headed, rationally, and reasonably.
“Now we’re at the point now where the county executive is calling for the state of emergency, and that’s frustrating,” said Bynes. “With the state of emergency now the police get carte blanche to do whatever they want.”
Bynes said clearly law enforcement is needed.
St. Louis County Police said two groups last night began shooting at one another. That led to one man being critically wounded by police. Bynes is concerned there could be more violence tonight.
“I feel like we’ve had a setback and I hope that people who want to shoot at each other don’t try to do it tonight,” said Bynes. “The message of, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ is not just to let the police know and be a reminder that our lives matter, it’s also an affirmation to ourselves that our lives matter, and clearly that hasn’t sunk in with everybody yet.”
She was pleased to hear St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, when asked whether those responsible for that shooting were protesters, say they were not.
“No, they’re criminals. They weren’t protesters. Protesters were people that were out there that were talking about a way to effect change, whatever that may be,” said Belmar.
Bynes said that is an important distinction following a year of communication between organizers and law enforcement.
“People in law enforcement, they know who comes out and protests … they know who the protesters are. They also know new faces, and they also know that people who are engaged in the peaceful demonstration and the protesting, they’re not trying to turn the protest into an O.K. Corral gun session,” said Bynes. “Language is very important.”
With the state of emergency, the St. Louis County police chief has been put in charge of law enforcement in Ferguson.
Earlier today more than 50 protesters were arrested during a demonstration at the Ferguson Police Department.