A Calm Night In Ferguson
Hundreds of demonstrators marched up and down West Florissant Avenue on a night in which the most dangerous factor was the heat index. It was the second night in a row of mostly peaceful protest.
As demonstrators made laps up and down the road (remaining in motion in accordance with law enforcement's rule), most of the policing was self-policing.
A handful of demonstrators would yell out to "Keep moving!" or "Get out the streets" when a crowd would gather. And those same demonstrators would admonish journalists for back-ups as well.
"Y'all have nice gas masks, that's cool," one demonstrator said to a stationary journalist. "We don't, so please keep moving."
In addition to the self-policing protestors, many groups of demonstrators were accompanied by men and women wearing orange shirts that said "Clergy United" in white letters.
“Our job here tonight is just to be the softer hand for everybody," Bishop Timothy Woods of First Freewill Baptist Church said.
"Just making sure law enforcement doesn’t have to get involved with certain incidents, that perhaps we can step in and be a buffer between law enforcement and the community. Making sure everybody gets to go home.”
And it seems the goal was achieved. As of early Thursday morning, police said only six people were arrested, compared to 47 by the same time the night before.
"I think that we have reached a turning point," Woods said. "I think that one side previously dictated to the other side, and we have a pretty good rapport now."
At the end of the night, police credited the calm night in large part to work by community leaders.
"The clergy have been a great example of the strength of this community," Captain Ron Johnson said. He added that Attorney General Eric Holder's visit also likely helped.
The situation was briefly tense early in the night when two supporters of Officer Darren Wilson showed up in Ferguson. Wilson is the officer who shot and killed 18 year-old Mike Brown.
— Dan Barry (@DanBarryNYT) August 21, 2014
After a crowd gathered, police guarded the Officer Darren Wilson supporters as they were escorted away from the crowd and into a police vehicle.
Some demonstrators also shielded the supporters, yelling at others to not engage and give the Wilson supporters what they wanted.
The crowd was on edge at that point.
But shortly after the police took the Wilson supporters away, a downpour of rain came down and briefly dispersed the crowd.
Once the rain was reduced to a drizzle, many demonstrators resumed their protest.
Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter: @csmcdaniel