Pandemonium Or Peace In Ferguson? Depends On If It’s Night Or Day

Aug 19, 2014

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Red's makes a promise.
Credit Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

The daily routine in the city of Ferguson has become one of turmoil and tear gas by night and cleanup and cooperation by day.

More than 50 people were arrested and two were shot as agitators clashed with authorities in Ferguson Monday night. Much of the action took place at the intersection of Canfield Road and West Florissant Avenue.

But just a few hours later, the sun rose over a very different scene at Canfield and West Florissant, where Red’s BBQ is located.

Residents and highway patrol officers worked side by side to clean up glass at Red's, where it seems that vandals have smashed in a window. One highway patrol office, Corporal Steve Jones, said he’s happy to help out.

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Cleanup at Red's
Credit Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

“It’s an important part of my job,” Jones said.

A dozen members of the Empowered Church of God in Christ in Spanish Lake also began congregating at Red's with brooms and trash bags. Marvin Taylor was expecting a crowd.

“It’s supposed to be about 20 to 50 people and we’re going to walk the streets and clean up,” Taylor said.

Church members began picking up glass, water bottles and other debris in Red's parking lot. But the biggest mess was inside. As Red's employee Sean Wilson showed me in, it was clear the damage hadn’t robbed him of his sense of humor.

Church members pick up debris. 81914
Church members pick up debris.
Credit Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

“You know what was crazy after all this, the alarm was still set this morning,” Wilson said.

The restaurant’s owner was out of town so Wilson checked out the damage for him. Wilson’s phone rang; it was the boss.

“Yeah, everything’s looking alright,” Wilson told him. “Just the one window. They did rip the cameras off the front of the building. So hopefully you can get footage of whoever did that.”

This was the second time Red's had been vandalized since Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer. The first time was the night after the shooting, when someone broke windows and threw a roll of burning toilet paper through one of them. There was some fire damage – mostly chairs. But the fire set off a sprinkler system – good for preventing more fire damage, but bad because it left a large pool of water under much of the seating area.

Sean Wilson cleans up the inside at Red's. 81914
Sean Wilson cleans up the inside at Red's.
Credit Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Wilson boarded up all the intact windows to protect them from future vandalism.

But Monday night's break-in was different. Police told Wilson they think people weren’t looking to tear up the place. Instead they were seeking shelter from tear gas and the threat of violence.

“I’m pretty sure that’s what it was because there isn’t anything moved, there’s not anything damaged,” Wilson said. “Nothing was stolen.”

Across the street from Red's, Kim Sleet surveyed the damage and the cleanup while waiting for the bus to take her to work. After 11 days, she’s sick and tired of the commotion and destruction, and angry over the disruption of her life and the lives of other Ferguson residents.

“We have become victims as well,” Sleet said. “Kids need to to get to school; they need an outlet from this crap that’s going on during the day and I’m over it,” Sleet said.

Sleet got on the bus and headed for her job in Clayton. But where she really wanted to go is back to normal.

“Let us have Ferguson back, she said. “Let us have some good nights of rest and peace.”

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL