After A Weekend Of Violence, A Community Begins To Repair Itself
"The people who did the damage to this store are not our customers,” Mike Jacob said, looking around his ransacked store. “100 percent not our customers. The community here is very good, smart people. Very good people.”
Jacob owns the convenience store Sam's Meat Market and Liquor on W. Florissant Ave., one of the dozens of businesses in the process of rebuilding after rioters vandalized and stole from stores in Ferguson.
The violence and looting were an offshoot from a peaceful vigil honoring the death of a teenager shot and killed by police. Michael Brown, an unarmed 18 year old, was shot by an officer after what police say was a physical struggle.
Outside of the convenience store, someone spray-painted the words "Mike Brown this for you."
"I try to tell people we’re sorry about Mike," Jacob said. "We try to help people, we have a convenience store. I hope people understand having a store next to the community area is important to people. We hire a lot of African-American people here."
The store smells strongly of the booze broken during the looting. The floors are sticky, with remnants of food that have yet to be cleaned up.
“They take almost every liquor here," Jacob said. "They take the liquor, the cigars, the meat, they take the safe. They take everything from here. The building is almost empty, they make a lot of damage in here.”
Like a lot of businesses along West Florissant Road, the windows are broken. He can't offer up an estimate of how much it will cost him, all told — except that it will be "a lot."
Just a mile down the road in neighboring Dellwod, John Zisser of Zisser Tire and Auto only had a rough estimate of the cost to his business.
"Oh, I don't know," he said, clearly exhausted from working on repairing the store. "It's close to a hundred grand so far. Don't know that I have insurance yet, it could be excluded."
By mid-morning, the tire center was lacking any front windows.
"They broke the glass out and robbed the place," Zisser said. "Everything in the showroom that wasn't nailed down — wheels, tires, computer equipment."
Zisser and others were working on sawing and nailing plywood up — both to protect the inside of the store from the elements as well as possible looting in the nights to come.
But Zisser echoed Jacob's comments, saying "the people who live here in the community aren't the ones doing the robbing."
Community members rally at Ferguson police
While business owners evaluated the damage and began their repairs, more than a hundred community members rallied outside of the Ferguson Police Department to call for justice for Brown.
In a rally that was peaceful but tense, protestors shouted “no justice, no peace,” as they marched toward lines of officers clad in riot gear.
Alex Thompson grew up in Ferguson. He said he came to the rally because he is tired of seeing his community treated this way.
Thompson said he is praying for the Brown family. “I know they are hurting, and I just hope something prevails out of not just his loss, but all the countless other losses, because it’s been this way for a long time.”
Sunny Ford of St. Louis said these losses create a sense of hopelessness.
“When I look at what is happening, there seems to be an increase in the murder of young black men and it is not given any real justice,” she said. “We are treated like animals. Our lives seem to have no value.”
With a voice hoarse from shouting, Anthony Shahid, one of the protest leaders, said he wants the protest to move beyond the violence of last night and focus on justice for Brown and improving the community.
“I’m through with that,” he said. “We are here now. We have a peaceful march and what we are going to do is make sure the world knows how we are being treated as black people around the world.”
County police chief promises thorough investigation
Meanwhile, St. Louis County officials indicated that it might be a while before an investigation into the shooting is completed.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said that his detectives needed to talk to “scores” of witnesses at the apartment complex that may have witnessed the shooting. This came as Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced he had asked the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a separate investigation.
He went on to say that people “frustrated by the lack of information that’s coming out on a case like this” need to understand “that even detectives that are investigating it right now don’t have access to everything right now.”
“I want to assure you that this is a very complicated investigation, as it should be,” Belmar said. “A man lost his life, there’s a police officer involved in this, and we need to make sure that this investigation is done right. We get one chance to do it.”
Belmar reiterated that his department “does nothing but gather facts and circumstances and present those to a neutral authority, in this case the prosecuting attorney or the federal government or both.” Only then, he said, would a decision be made about whether to prosecute the officer.
At a separate press conference, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch said roughly 10 people had been arrested and charged from Sunday night's mob actions. He said the charges were mostly for burglary, but did not get into specifics.
On the investigation into Brown's death, McCulloch said it would take time, a sentiment echoed by County Executive Charlie Dooley.
“This is a very difficult and complex situation,” Dooley said. “There are many sides to the story. There are many answers. We have not all the facts at this point in time. As we go forward, we will try to keep you abreast of all information that we have.”
“We are asking all the public: Be calm. Be patient. And be prayerful,” Dooley said.
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