The mayor of Ferguson, Missouri, says many of the people who smashed, looted, burned and destroyed in the aftermath of protests following a fatal police shooting of a teenager were out-of-towners.
“Once the vigil dispersed, the people who showed up saw their numbers and got really brave, then people started driving in from other areas to steal stuff,” Mayor James Knowles told WND.
“A lot of the people aren’t even from our town; but they came in and stole from our businesses and left our town in ruins, and made it look like there are racial tensions here that simply aren’t what they made them out to be. Such a shame that we have people with an axe to grind, coming here to grind it,” he said.
His comments came as the town approached its second night since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, 18, whose death remained under investigation.
WND reported the chaos that erupted late Sunday as protests over the police shooting resulted in 32 arrests and two injured officers.
Brown, a recent high school graduate, was in a struggle over a police officer’s gun when he was shot, according to officials. But his mother, Lesley McSpadden, rejects the official version and wants the officer who fired the lethal shots to receive the death penalty.
Knowles said hackers demanding action crashed the city’s email system.
“They have targeted the police chief and me as the mayor of the town. It is very disheartening to know that people who have no first-hand knowledge of our city are doing this,” he said.
“A great source of pride for us is how we have integrated this community. Our racial relations are peaceful and we work well together, regardless of color. It is sad that these uninformed hackers have to exacerbate what is already a difficult time for our city. It infuriates me that they play on a tragedy in an effort to incite people’s sensibilities nationwide.”
Multiple Twitter posts said the looting was a negative for the community and should have been done in “white” neighborhoods.
Looters, said “Madam Nori,” are “tearing up their own neighborhood instead of terrorizing the white neighborhoods.”
They “need to go to the white people’s area and start looting,” wrote “Groovy.”
Another said: “I simply wish black folk would riot white neighborhoods.”
“EastSide” said: “You tearing down yo own community like what ? At least go mess up the white neighborhoods stuff !!!!!!”
Knowles said the St. Louis County Police Department is reviewing the case.
He said early Monday it was quiet.
“Clergy asked troublemakers to disperse,” he said.
Among the stores looted were Walmart, Family Dollar and Kmart, officials said.
SWAT teams of officers were in place, but rumors that tanks were dispatched were not correct, he said.
“I want the nation to know that this is not indicative of St. Louis or my city. We hope people will recognize that we are a great town with a great history of working together. This isn’t the Watts riots. People shouldn’t try to lump this together,” he said.
Ferguson, with a population of about 21,000, is about 10 miles north of downtown St. Louis. A majority is black, with median income of about $37,000, less than the state average.
Video footage showed looters carrying cases of beer and other items into the street, despite the Brown family calling for calm during their time of grief.
The violence comes on the heels of many accusations in recent months of police brutality. One woman claimed police were using mace and dogs to quiet children who were vocal participants in the protests. Others insist the police are doing their best under the circumstances.
Organizers of a website called Operation Ferguson made demands and threats directed at Ferguson authorities.
The international “hacktivist”organization “Anonymous” has demanded that Congress introduce a bill called “Mike Brown’s Law” to enact strict national standards for police conduct. They further demand that the new law “grant the victims of police violence the same rights and prerogatives that are already enjoyed nationwide by the victims of other violent criminals.”
Anonymous called on residents of Ferguson to “occupy every square inch” of their city and help the protesters in any way they can.
The group also issued threats.
Anonymous vowed that if protesters are harmed in any way, it will “take every web based asset” of the government offline. It further said that if the protesters were attacked, it would “release the personal information on every single member of the Ferguson Police Department” and any others involved.
Anonymous ominously closed with: “We are Anonymous – We are Legion – We will not forgive – We will not forget.”
The group charged in a statement that the police “shot an unarmed teen six times and killed him.”
“His body was left to lie in a pool of blood in the sweltering heat for hours while the police militarized the area against protesters and attempted to concoct a reasonable story as to why they snatched this innocent students (sic) life.”