FERGUSON, Mo. – Protesters in Ferguson pressed pause Thursday as the city welcomed Thanksgiving, decorating boarded-up storefronts and gathering for church services – a stark contrast to previous days of outrage over the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case.
No police officers or Missouri National Guard members stood sentry outside the Ferguson police station, which has been a nexus for protesters since Monday night’s announcement that Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, wouldn’t be indicted for fatally shooting the unarmed black 18-year-old in August.
On that downtown street, beneath a lighted “Season’s Greetings” garland, three children used paintbrushes to decorate the plywood covering many storefront windows that was put up to foil potential vandals. One quoted from “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”
“We thought we’d do what we could to make it a little more attractive and then try to bring the kids into it and get them involved in making the businesses appear a little less scary, depressing,” said Leah Bailey, as her 7-year-old son Dennis climbed a ladder to finish an orange dragon.
Several hours after dark, a few people continued painting, but there was no visible protest activity. National Guard troops occasionally patrolled the area and surrounding neighborhoods in vehicles and on foot.
Since the grand jury’s decision, protests have taken place across the country. Most have been peaceful. But at least 130 demonstrators who refused to disperse during a Los Angeles protest were arrested Wednesday night, while 35 people were detained in Oakland following a march that deteriorated into unrest and vandalism, according to police officials.
Back in Ferguson, Greater St. Mark Family Church sits blocks from where several stores went up in flames after the grand jury announcement. A handful of people listened to the Rev. Tommie Pierson preach Thursday that the destruction and chaos was by “a small group of out-of-control people out there.”
“They don’t represent the community; they don’t represent the mood nor the feelings of the community,” Pierson said. “I would imagine if you talked to them, they probably don’t even live here. So, we don’t want to be defined by what they did.”
In downtown St. Louis, a group gathered near Busch Stadium for what organizer Paul Byrd called a “pro-community” car rally meant to be peaceful and counter the recent Ferguson violence he suggested has tarnished the region’s image.
Byrd, a 45-year-old construction worker from Imperial, Missouri, declined to say whether he supported Wilson but noted, “I totally support police officers.” The cruise was escorted by a city police vehicle; no protesters showed up.
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