Ferguson Day 6
Early in the afternoon St. Louis City police shot and killed a 25 year old man named Kajieme Powell in North St. Louis City just a few miles away from Ferguson. He had shoplifted some donuts and an energy drink from a small store and was acting erratically on the sidewalk. When the police arrived he walked towards them and said he wanted them to shoot him. When he approached the officers showing a knife they shot 12 rounds at him.
This happening after all of the violence we saw for the past few days put me on edge. I had people texting me begging me not to go back to the protests. When I almost decided to stay home Dane got ahold of me and said he had been contacted by Vice News and they asked if he would be the camera man for their live feed and they said that Josh and I could go as support. Working for Vice is pretty much my dream job so I was going.
This was what I took with me that night. My bike helmet, a gas mask, two bottles of antacid for tear gas, two backup batteries for my phone, a Canon Rebel T2i with a 24-105mm lens, and a shrapnel proof vest that Josh let me borrow. We thought that we would need all the protective equipment we could get, but thankfully we were wrong.
We arrived at the command center and waited for Tim from Vice News to meet us. We thought that we were going to the site of the shooting earlier that day, but before we left we were contacted by another journalist who was at the site and said that there was a very small group protesting there with very few police officers. He said the protesters were chanting “Hands up, shoot back”, were flashing guns, and had thrown another photographer’s camera. A Vice crew had been there earlier in the night and the decision was made to stay in Ferguson.
When we had the camera set up and live stream started we headed down W. Florissant. The scene was tense and there were a lot of people gathered on the street. The police were not arresting people for not walking and there were groups gathered in the parking lots and the police were standing at the store fronts and in the street. One of the first things we saw as we got to the protesters was the peace train, it was a golf cart and some cars being pulled behind it that were painted like Thomas the Tank Engine. The other time we saw this was the first night we were at the protest and it was peaceful.
It looked at first like there was a smaller media presence than the days before, but the press area had been moved down the street to Canfield at the Public Storage parking lot. This was actually the largest amount of press that I had seen there. We walked around the scene and interviewed some people. After being there for about an hour the police moved and from the stores and pushed the groups of people to the sidewalks and that enraged the protesters. This is the point where a lot of the media moved into the crowds and police and mediators started ordering media and protesters to stay out of the street and to keep moving.
After some time things stayed tense and we moved north with the groups of protesters and things started to boil over. First there were some water bottles thrown at the police lines and everyone started running to the press area. On our way there some people in the crowd approached us and ordered us to turn our cameras off, and they even chased after us when they thought we were not complying.
Police moved their line from the street and thats when the infamous Officer Go Fuck Yourself situation happened. The journalist that was threatened by the officer with his gun ran up to us and showed us the video to keep us from walking towards that cop. Soon after that police arrested a man in the street and more water bottles were thrown at them, and then there were one or two loud pops. With all of the gunfire of the past days everyone ran and took cover. I even said that was definitely a gunshot on the live feed as we crouched behind a parked car, but we never had confirmation that it was actually a gunshot.
After this the police were trying to keep all of the media in the roped off area and telling the protesters to leave. They surrounded the media area and rushed in and arrested people who were not credentialed. Then they started pushing what was left of the protesters back and saying the media needed to return to the command center. As we were moving south a man approached us and had a live tear gas grenade and said he was going to use it on anyone who was keeping their cameras on but he did not use it.
As the cops moved the crowd we saw Captain Johnson and tried to ask him why they were making us leave and the police around him said we had to move or we were going to be arrested. The police were now telling all media to move to the command center, but most stayed in the area. Many of the protesters had left by this time and the media were starting to outnumber the protesters.
We stayed on W Florissant and moved across the street to watch the situation. The police were using a new strategy of moving into the crowds quickly and spraying mace at people who they though were the agitators. Some people were pulled from the crowd and arrested including a legal observer from the National Lawyers Guild. Soon almost all protesters had left the area except for some small groups had stayed in the general assembly area where police were allowing them to stay, and there have been encampments there since this night.
This is the full video of the Vice News live feed.