At The Farmer's Market
Despite waves of rain, the turnout was strong at the Ferguson Farmers Market on Saturday morning. For many people, showing up at the market was a sign of solidarity as their town has fallen under the international spotlight in the wake of the fatal police shooting of Michael brown last weekend.
“I’m proud of our city,” said Sandy Hunter, a 73-year-old resident who has lived in Ferguson her whole life. “I’m proud of the people who are coming out and showing what Ferguson is really about.”
Business was steady for Ray Rays Kettle Corn. Owner Ray Brand said he would have normally skipped a rainy morning at the farmers market, but this week was different.
“We wouldn’t nearly have the crowd that we have today if it wasn’t for everyone wanting to come together and show support,” Brand said.
At the entrance were members of the Ferguson Youth Initiative, selling "I heart Ferg" T-shirts. Within two hours they were sold out, save for double and triple extra-large sizes. Money from sales goes back into the Ferguson Youth Initiative, which promotes community service among young people in Ferguson.
Wesley Bell is a board member for the Ferguson Youth Initiative and is head of the criminal justice department at the Florissant Valley campus of St. Louis Community College. He said the events in Ferguson over the past week have been sobering and that work needs to be done to improve relations between law enforcement and minority youth. But, he said, it’s unfair to broadly paint the city as being rife with racial tension. (Read more about Wesley Bell's Ferguson.)
“What I’m hoping is that we take this as an opportunity to not only address this in Ferguson but nationwide,” Bell said. “This is something that needs to be addressed.”
Cleaning Up After Friday’s Looting
By mid-Saturday morning one week after Michael Brown’s death, the quarter mile stretch of W. Florissant Ave. that has served as ground zero for protests this past week in Ferguson had almost as many boarded-up windows as ones open to view.
On one end of the quarter-mile stretch lies the burned-out QuikTrip; on the other end is the convenience store Michael Brown allegedly robbed. In between, some businesses have boarded-up windows because looters have broken the glass. Others have boarded their windows as a measure of protection.
After a peaceful night on Thursday, unrest and looting returned to Ferguson late Friday night. And on Saturday morning, the community came out to clean once more.
They cleaned up the inside of looted businesses and walked the sidewalks, picking up lingering trash. By 11:30 a.m., volunteers at Sam’s Meat Market were putting the last boards over the store’s windows.
The combination butcher and liquor shop was looted for the second time last night. Store owner Mike Jacoubs said he was woken up at a quarter to midnight on Friday with word that alarms were going off.
“I call the police, I tell everybody. I try to do my job, to call the police to tell everybody what’s going on. And I look on the TV and there’s everybody walking away with my stuff,” said Jacoub.
He tried calling the police, but no one stopped the looting. So he and a few others took up arms and defended the store themselves.
“When I see this happen and the police are not going and not doing anything, we came here to protect the store, that’s it,” he explained.
But despite his frustration at the situation, Jacoub said he was very grateful to everyone who came to help him clean up, and that he has no plans to close up shop and leave.
“On one hand, you wonder why am I doing that, but when you see the love from the community, I’m staying here. I’m staying here,” he said.
A Line of Defense
After Ferguson police released surveillance footage from Ferguson Market on Friday morning, alleging that Michael Brown robbed it, the convenience store became a focus point for angry protestors. Protest organizer Taureen Russell, 30, says he and a group of young people were successfully holding back a crowd in front of the market, dodging rocks thrown at the store and blocking those who wanted access.
“We were locked arms,” said Russell, “[There were] a couple of rocks thrown, of course. But we kept them away. But when they threw the tear gas from the tank, from the military vehicle, it broke lose.”
According to Russell, the tear gas thrown by police on Friday night broke the line of defense in front of Ferguson Market and paved the way for the second looting of the store.
Since Saturday, Russell has been working with a group of young people he calls a coalition.
“Just a coalition,” said Russell. “A community of people who want some solutions to resolve — some demands to come out and our demands to be answered. To try to hold elected officials and even police officers accountable.”
He said the group was 35 and under, with a mix of college students and 20-somethings as well as those in their 30s.
“I was called old at the meeting yesterday. I didn’t know 30 was old,” said Russell.