Highway Patrol Captain In Ferguson Blames Agitators from New York and California For Unrest [Update]


It was another long, bad night in Ferguson, Missouri, where protests over the killing of 18-year-old Mike Brown by police officer Darren Wilson continued for the ninth straight day. The National Guard was brought in yesterday, but their presence didn’t seem to calm the situation: at least 31 people were arrested during the protests last night and two men were shot. Police said they were shot at by a small group of protesters but that they didn’t fire their weapons , saying the men were shot by others in the crowd. At a news conference at 2 a.m., Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson displayed two guns and a Molotov cocktail he said arrested people had been carrying. Johnson blamed some of the unrest on outside agitators, saying, “I’ve said many of the criminal elements that have been coming to Ferguson are not from this area.Tonight, some of those arrested came from as far away as New York and California.”

– See also: Why the Outrage After Michael Brown’s Death Was Different From the Outrage After Eric Garner’s Death

Missouri State Senator Claire McCaskill also blamed outsiders for the violence, telling MSNBC, “”The protesters have now been invaded, and embedded among them are a group of instigators, some coming from other states, that want a confrontation with the police.”

It’s not just police and politicians pointing to outsiders though: several prominent activists on Twitter are pointing out that the Revolutionary Communist Party, a group founded in the 1970s and led by activist Bob Avakian, issued a statement urging “defiance and rebellion” in Ferguson. The statement reads, in part:

Sunday night, as the tear gas hung in the air and the time ticked down to the midnight curfew, a woman stepped up and started calling out to people: “No Justice! No Curfew!” In response to the call to “go home and get some rest” she said–“Michael Brown can’t get no rest, he can’t go home. We’re not going home!” This is the spirit of Ferguson–this is the spirit we need to support and spread.

To everyone who really wants liberation, who wants a better day for our youth–don’t let them tamp this down. To the “leaders” who attack the angry ones and tell us to trust in the system–NO. If you can’t do any better than that, get out of the way.
And to any so-called militants who shamefully take up the role of the police and decide who can protest and when, who attack and slander the “agitators” and the communists as “provocateurs,” you need to cut that COINTELPRO shit out and if you can’t stand with the people when they stand up…then just get on home.

CBS reports that the Revolution Club of Chicago and the New Black Panthers also have a presence in Ferguson. But the group with the heaviest artillery, though, is still the police, who fired tear gas and stun grenades at the crowd at several points during the night, reportedly in response to rocks and bottles being thrown at them.

Last night, at least three of the arrested people were journalists, two of them based in New York. Getty photographer Scott Olson of Chicago was detained and released . Lukas Hermsmeier, based in New York for the German outlet BILD, was arrested and released around 7 a.m. this morning, according to BILD. And reporter Ryan Devereaux from The Intercept, the New York-based startup covering national security, was also detained in St. Louis county jail overnight, according to a statement released by his editor, John Cook.

“We haven’t been able to reach officials with the St. Louis County Police Department or Ferguson Police Department to find out if Ryan has been arrested or charged, or under what pretext he was detained,” Cook wrote at 3:50 a.m. today. “But needless to say, it’s an outrage that he was stopped and handcuffed by police in the course of lawfully doing his job on the streets of Ferguson. We are trying to contact Ryan now.” In an update this morning, he said Devereaux is “due to be released without charge–the initial pretext for his detention was ‘failure to disperse’–within the hour.” Devereaux was released shortly before 10 a.m.

The Freedom of the Press Foundation says eleven reporters have been arrested covering Ferguson. They call the arrests ” a gross violation of the reporters’ First Amendment rights, and attempts to prevent journalists from lawfully doing their job on the streets of Ferguson are downright illegal.”

Even before the latest arrests, the Committee to Protect Journalists, which focuses on press freedom around the world, also wasn’t pleased. They released a statement yesterday denouncing police harassment and intimidation of reporters trying to cover the situation in Ferguson.

“We are concerned by the detention and harassment of reporters trying to cover the news in Ferguson,” CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney is quoted as saying. “Journalists have a right to work freely on the streets of any American city, and authorities in Ferguson have a duty to ensure that they can do so there too.”

Update, 3:30 p.m.: As the dust starts to settle, arrest records from last night are beginning to tell a very different story than the one initially indicated by Johnson. NBC News obtained arrest records from last night showing that 78 people, not 31, were arrested in all, and that the “overwhelming majority” of them were from Missouri.