Ferguson, Mo. — An increasingly frustrated police commander on Tuesday blamed a “tiny minority of lawbreakers” for the continued violence here in Ferguson after another long night of violence and civil unrest.
Monday was the latest in an unbroken string of violent nights in Ferguson, which has been a tinderbox since the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, by a white police officer on Aug. 9.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said two people were shot and 31 people were arrested Monday night, some of whom listed addresses as far away as California and New York.
There were also two fires reported, one at a business and another at an unoccupied residence. One of the shooting victims was rescued by officers using an armored vehicle, Johnson said.
“This was not an act of protesters,” he told reporters in an early morning briefing. “This was an act of violent criminals.”
A private autopsy report revealed that Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson shot Brown six times, including once through the top of the head.
On Monday, with President Obama calling for peace in Ferguson, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made plans to fly into town on Wednesday, establishing a federal presence here.
On a day that the Missouri National Guard was called in to protect the police command center, Monday night’s protests started off peacefully enough, but steadily devolved.
At about 9:40 p.m., a small group of about 200 “loud but not aggressive protesters” faced off against a line of police officers on the corner of Ferguson and West Florissant avenues. Since the National Guard was protecting the command center, their presence wasn’t obvious.
State troopers instead, monitored W. Florissant Street trying to control protesters.
“Police did not react,” Johnson said. “That’s when bottles were thrown from the middle and the edge” of the crowd. These criminal acts came from a tiny minority of troublemakers.”
The midnight curfew that had been in place over the weekend had been lifted.
Johnson said his troopers were pressed into action only after being prompted by gunfire and Molotov cocktails.
“Our officers came under heavy gunfire,” Johnson said, adding that no police officers fired any bullets Monday night.
Police again shot tear gas and smoke canisters into the crowds to disperse them. A photographer from New Mexico was hit with a tear gas canister, which then exploded at his feet. At one point, all journalists at the designated media area were forced back to the police command area, because their safety could not be guaranteed, a police spokesman said.
At the press briefing, Johnson displayed two guns and a Molotov cocktail that officers seized from what he called “instigators,” Monday night.
“Protesters are peaceful and respectful,” Johnson said. “They don’t clash with police. They don’t throw Molotov cocktails,” Johnson said. “This nation is watching each and every one of us. We’re going to solve this. We’re going to make this neighborhood whole. We’re going to make this community whole.”