Update, 4:05 a.m.: One person was shot in Ferguson early this morning and is in critical condition. Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is in charge of security in Ferguson, said one protester shot another. In all, seven people were arrested early Sunday for "failure to disperse" during a five-hour curfew that was imposed earlier in the day. Johnson said the police used tear gas in response to a report of the shooting and arrested the seven people from the roof of a restaurant.
"I was disappointed in the actions of tonight," Johnson said.
Update, 3:20 a.m.: Police confirmed the reporters on the ground were right after all, tear gas was used in addition to smoke bombs in order to disperse protesters in Ferguson who defied the curfew.
Update, 2:45 a.m.: The vast majority of protesters left the streets of Ferguson peacefully around midnight as the curfew began to take effect. Less than an hour into the five-hour curfew, police began moving in on a group of around 150-200 protesters who defied the curfew (and heavy rain) to stay out in the street and protest. “No justice, no curfew,” they chanted.
A handful of protesters who were “a noticeably younger group than what has been the norm in Ferguson” began marching toward the police, reports KTLA. As groups of police officers stood guard outside businesses to prevent looting, another set of officers began to slowly move toward the protesters. Police denied initial reports that they had fired several rounds of tear gas into the protesters, insisting they were smoke bombs. Others aren’t so sure.
The Guardian’s Jon Swaine, for example, directly calls the claim a lie:
I tasted it and this was a lie RT @mattdpearce Police liaison tells press it's all been smoke, not gas.-- Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) August 17, 2014
AP contributor Nigel Duara says the claims that it was just smoke is “fucking bullshit”:
Hearing now they told our reporter Jim Salter it was only smoke. Wow. That is, how to put this gently, fucking bullshit.-- Nigel Duara (@nigelduara) August 17, 2014
Vice’s Tim Pool also has no doubts:
I have been teargassed many times, the police definitely used it today in #Ferguson-- Tim Pool (@Timcast) August 17, 2014
Alderman Antonio French for his part does not directly contradict police but says the smoke “does burn the eyes”:
Whether it was tear gas or not is a key question because State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is in charge of Ferguson security, had earlier said police wouldn’t enforce the curfew “with trucks, we won’t enforce it with tear gas.” Meanwhile, there are reports of a shooting, but Anthony Ellis, one of the “peacekeeper” volunteers at the scene said it was one protester shooting another as the police were moving in, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. There is no confirmation yet, but it seems several protesters were arrested. And almost two hours after the curfew began, it appears most of the streets of Ferguson have been cleared, but it’s difficult to tell, particularly considering that officers are keeping reporters away from the scene, reportedly threatening arrests to anyone who leaves a designated press area.
So frustrated right now, police keeping media way out of where they're facing protesters, we have no way of telling what's going on there-- Alice Speri (@alicesperi) August 17, 2014
Original post, 5:35 p.m.: Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency Saturday, imposing a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. on Ferguson after several stores were looted overnight. “We must first have and maintain peace. This is a test. The eyes of the world are watching,” Nixon said at a news conference Saturday afternoon, according to the Associated Press. “We cannot allow the ill will of the few to undermine the good will of the many.”
Nixon, who gave the news conference with Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson at a church in Ferguson, was repeatedly interrupted while he tried to speak from people who demanded justice, illustrating the tense situation and widespread anger that continues to dominate in the St. Louis suburb. The FBI sent 40 agents to Ferguson on Saturday morning, and they are going door-to-door to question potential witnesses of Michael Brown’s shooting last week, Johnson said. A federal official said the FBI had joined the inquiries due to widespread doubts about the integrity of the investigation, reports USA Today.