FERGUSON, Mo. – Many news media services already had begun packing tents and television transmission vehicles as word circulated through the Ferguson community of further evidence that the black teen shot and killed by a police officer was the aggressor, resisting arrest after his suspected role in a convenience store robbery.
During daylight hours Wednesday and Thursday, the streets of Ferguson were open to normal traffic and businesses throughout the city were active, with protesters in the streets numbering fewer than 50 at any given time.
Media have been cordoned off in the parking lot of a large shopping center at the corner of West Florissant Avenue and Lucas-Hunt Road, less than a mile from the site of the shooting.
Joe Costephens, the white pastor of an interracial congregation, the Passage Community Church in Florissant, confirmed to WND that most of the riot activity had taken place in the three or four blocks around the location of the shooting at West Florissant Avenue and Canfield Drive.
“The Ferguson you see on the national news is different from the Ferguson I know,” he told WND.
“There’s an emphasis on families in Ferguson and on community. We are definitely an interracial community, and I’m proud to minister to an interracial congregation,” Costephens said.
“While things were going crazy with the Michael Brown shooting on Sunday, we had a pool party in my neighborhood, and it was half-white and half-black,” he said. “It was a beautiful thing, families loving one another, both races, with a sense of community.”
‘Don’t jump to conclusions’
Wednesday in Ferguson, the buzz was about a Facebook posting by local radio station 100.7 FM claiming the officer in the Aug. 9 shooting, Darren Wilson, would not be indicted because key witnesses said 18-year-old Michael Brown attacked the officer and attempted to take away his gun. Fox News reported Wilson suffered severe facial injuries, including an eye-socket fracture, and was nearly beaten unconscious by Brown moments before firing his gun.
Wednesday night, nevertheless, the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin warning that the hacktivist group Anonymous is planning nationwide protests Thursday against the Ferguson police shooting. The group’s “National Day of Rage” is expected to span 38 major U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C.
Costephens, who grew up in Ferguson attending First Baptist Church, said he has urged his congregation “not to jump to conclusions, because in three or four months, when all this calms down, it’s going to be the churches that are left to rebuild.”
“The thing I’ve addressed to the congregation is that we’re not here to make a political or a social statement; we are here to minister to people, and we’re going to wait until all the facts are out and let the system that’s in place decide right and wrong,” he said.
Open for business
On Wednesday, WND toured the riot area along West Florissant and estimated there were about 300 to 400 protesters in the streets. Most were milling about and occasionally chanting slogans, including, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” on a night when 43,085 attended the St. Louis Cardinals baseball game downtown and a heavy thunderstorm hit the city for nearly an hour.
Earlier on Wednesday, WND found the businesses boarded up after window damage from the riot activity could be measured in the dozens, with only a few stores appearing to have suffered fire damage.
It was a sharp contrast to the burning and looting common to 1960s race riots, such as the Watts riot in Los Angeles in 1965 and the Hough riot in Cleveland in 1966.
Costephens told WND he has “talked and prayed with many of the shop owners.”
“Many who are not yet back open for business are wanting to wait until things calm down a while,” he said. “It makes sense. If things are going to be rough, why repair the windows? So, they’re boarding the windows up and open for business. Some are staying closed for the time being, waiting for insurance money to come in.”
No justice without truth
On Wednesday, WND also interviewed Stoney Shaw, pastor of First Baptist Church in Ferguson, who has urged his community to “let the justice system work.”
“We have to know the truth about what really happened in the Michael Brown shooting,” he said.
“How can you have justice if you don’t have the truth? If you don’t have truth, then what you have is vigilante justice.”
Shaw added, “If the facts show the police officer went over the line, then he should be prosecuted.”
However, he continued, if the officer “was in the line of duty and the young man was not right in everything he did – if he was belligerent over what he did in the convenience store and it carried on down the street – then that’s a different story.”