Following the grand jury's decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, protests erupted across the country. In Ferguson, Mo., where Wilson fatally shot an unarmed Brown on Aug. 9, the demonstrations quickly turned violent despite pleas from Brown's family and President Obama to keep the protests peaceful.
Wilson's lawyer also released a statement following the grand jury's decision, in which he asked for peace. "We recognize that many people will want to second-guess the grand jury's decision. We would encourage anyone who wants to express an opinion do so in a respectful and peaceful manner."
However, these calls for peaceful protest in Ferguson were ignored. According to The Daily Beast, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters that at least a dozen buildings were set on fire, two police cars were burned, as were multiple civilian cars, approximately 150 shots were fired, police officers were pelted with rocks, and many local businesses were destroyed.
One reporter from CNN was hit by a rock while on camera, and Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo were tear-gassed while on air. "My entire crew, Chris Cuomo, Van Jones and I were out standing in front of the police department and several tear gas canisters went off in front of us," Lemon said. "We were ushered out by our security and members of the Ferguson police department. ... The smoke was so thick we could barely move." Despite numerous reports of tear gas, the St. Louis County Police Department tweeted that they only used "smoke to break up unruly crowds."
In a moment shockingly reminiscent of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, one man stood in the street with his hands raised, blocking armored vehicles from advancing.
Across the country, demonstrators took to the streets to protest the grand jury's decision. In Los Angeles, dozens marched down Martin Luther King Blvd, blocking the freeway. They made it to Beverly Hills, where they lied silently in the middle of a major intersection. Similar protests occurred in New York City, where the Manhattan, Brooklyn, and RFK-Triborough bridges were blocked by hundreds of protesters marching and sitting in the roadway.
In Washington, D.C., protesters lied in front of the White House and flooded the steps of the Supreme Court, where they chanted "hands up, don't shoot."
Despite a pre-announced state of emergency, the mayors of Ferguson and the neighboring Dellwood, which also suffered from violent protests, complained that they lacked the needed presence of the National Guard. It wasn't until early Tuesday morning that Gov. Jay Nixon announced he would be deploying more National Guard to the area.
While protests continued throughout the night, evidence from the grand jury was made public, including photos of the injuries Wilson sustained when Brown allegedly hit him in the face and fought for control of the handgun. In Wilson's full testimony, which was also released, he explained why he pulled out his gun on an unarmed teenager and fatally shot him. "I felt that another one of those punches in my face could knock me out or worse. I mean it was, he's obviously bigger than I was and stronger and the, I've already taken two to the face and I didn't think I would, the third one could be fatal if he hit me right."
Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement late Monday night, as reported by The Atlantic, saying that while the St. Louis County grand jury did not indict Wilson, "the Justice Department's investigation into the shooting of Brown remains ongoing."
Holder made clear that the federal inquiry will be independent from prosecutor Robert McCulloch's investigation, which many have found questionably prejudiced. "Even at this mature stage of the investigation, we have avoided prejudging any of the evidence," Holder insisted. "And although federal civil rights law imposes a high legal bar in these types of cases, we have resisted forming premature conclusions."