Latest on Ferguson: Holder Set to Visit, Grand Jury Set to Hear Evidence

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 19 2014 1:15 PM

Latest on Ferguson: Holder Set to Visit, Grand Jury Set to Hear Evidence

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Tuesday's protests.

Michael B. Thomas / AFP/Getty Images

Slate will post running news updates about the situation in Ferguson below. For other Slate coverage of Ferguson, click here.

Update, 11:30 p.m.: The city issued another statement on Tuesday asking residents to stay indoors at night. West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, meanwhile, appeared to be “quiet and subdued,” with peaceful protests earlier in the evening.

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Missouri Highway Patrol designated an area south of Ferguson Avenue at 9026 West Florissant as the new "approved assembly zone" for protesters. The highway patrol closed parts of West Florissant Avenue for the evening and turned away non-residents:

Prior to Tuesday evening’s protests, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote an editorial for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch calling for an end to violence and looting in Ferguson ahead of his visit on Wednesday. He also pledged to collaborate with community leaders and investigators. FBI director James Comey also weighed in, saying that the agency has flooded the Ferguson area with agents to carry out the investigation in an “impartial, careful and expeditious way.”

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon decided not to ask County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch to recuse himself from the Brown case, even though the attorney’s objectivity has been called into question and McCulloch himself has said he will step down if requested to by the governor. Nixon told the St Louis-Post Dispatch that he will only appoint a special prosecutor for the case “if Bob feels, for a myriad of reasons, that he and his office should step aside.”

By Tuesday night, more than $95,000 had been raised for Michael Brown’s family through a crowdfunding site created as a memorial fund.

Update, 3:45 p.m.: St. Louis County prosecutors will begin presenting evidence related to Michael Brown's death to a grand jury on Wednesday, the Washington Post reports. It isn't clear what charges they might be seeking and when the jury would ultimately vote on whether to issue an indictment. The county's spokesperson did not even say specifically that the evidence would relate to the conduct of officer Darren Wilson, who shot Brown, though it isn't clear who else would possibly be charged in the incident.

A 23-year-old black man who allegedly threatened police officers with a knife was shot and killed today in St. Louis proper. Initial reports suggest the man was involved in a robbery or perhaps just a confrontation at a convenience store and that at least one witness called police because the man was behaving "erratically." St. Louis police Chief Sam Dotson says the suspect had refused commands to put the knife down and was approaching officers in an "attack posture" when he was shot.

Update, 1 p.m.: NBC reports that, contra Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson's earlier statement that 31 individuals were arrested late Monday and early today, 78 people were arrested and booked into St. Louis County jail overnight during protests in the Ferguson area. Of the 78, 75 were recorded as having been taken in for refusal to disperse," i.e. nonviolent offenses.* Two were arrested for "unlawful use of a weapon," and one for interfering with a police officer. 

Update, 10:55 a.m.: Statistics from Monday night, via St. Louis's KSDK:

Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said early Tuesday that 31 people were arrested, four police officers were injured by thrown rocks and bottles, at least two people were shot, and two fires were set during a night of clashes between police and protesters.

Original post, 3:00 a.m.: From afar, at least, it seems that Ferguson, Missouri, has settled permanently into a bad dream—a quagmire in which every day is narrated by variations on the same grave but resolute political optimism, and every night is loud, anarchic, and exactly the same as the one before. Tonight's events in Missouri have had the same nightmare qualities to which we've become accustomed: heavily armed police, clouds of tear gas, arrests, reports of Molotov cocktails and gunshots, and threats against journalists and protesters. And while this evening saw the introduction of new elements in the form of some Missouri National Guard troops and a rule requiring protesters to keep moving at all times, the real-time reports of journalists on the ground described the usual chronological pattern: dusk and early evening hours of marches, transforming as the hours went on into scattered but constant confrontations that almost miraculously managed not to cross into fatal violence.   

Here is a building on fire:

Here is a line of police with weapons drawn:

Here is a St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer's report:

The image at the top of this post is a civil rights protestor taunting avowedly pro–civil rights MSNBC host Chris Hayes, who had just been the target of what appeared to be at least two thrown rocks. Why? Who knows?

Here's what Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who still seems to be the top law enforcement authority on the scene, said:

When, though? For now, tonight, the situation seems to have leveled off. But tomorrow is a new day.

Correction, Aug. 19, 1:15 p.m.: This post originally misstated that protesters had been arrested for "failure to disperse" rather than "refusal to disperse." (Return.)

Ben Mathis-Lilley edits the Slatest. Follow @Slatest on Twitter.

Irene Chidinma Nwoye is a writer and former Slate intern in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.

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