FERGUSON, Mo. -- Strict new protest rules and the presence of the National Guard in Ferguson didn’t prevent fresh clashes with police on Monday night, the ninth night of unrest since unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot dead by a white police officer on Aug. 9.
Police fired several rounds of tear gas into the crowd after a small number of protesters reportedly threw bottles at the officers. Shots were fired, and the cops ordered everyone without media credentials to disperse, then evacuated the media center as well.
"Air smells like gun powder," the Washington Post's Wesley Lowery tweeted. "Not like tear gas. Gun powder."
The National Guard, deployed to Ferguson by order of Gov. Jay Nixon (D) Monday morning, was posted at the police command center so that local police could concentrate on monitoring the protest, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson told reporters.
The evening seemed to begin peacefully, with increased restrictions on where and how people could assemble. The QuikTrip, a meeting place for protesters on past nights, was closed off. Police told people that they had to keep moving or else they would be arrested, and the streets were closed off to cars early in the evening. The festive atmosphere of previous nights was replaced with solemn protests.
But tensions quickly rose after some in the crowd reportedly threw objects at police, who formed lines and told everyone to move back. An armored vehicle moved through the crowd, and several people took off running. CNN reported that white anarchists from outside of Ferguson were the ones throwing things at police.
Some protesters, led by Malik Shabazz, who is affiliated with the New Black Panther Party, tried to calm the situation and encourage people to keep walking and disperse. "We didn't want the news tonight to be tear gas and everybody running," he added. "The news tonight is that we're here for justice, for the arrest of officer Darren Wilson, we're here for Mike Brown and his family and we want an end to police brutality."
The police moved back the line and the tension in the crowd briefly eased before tempers flared again.
As a handful of people reportedly continued to throw bottles at police and protesters defied police orders to immediately disperse, the situation again intensified. Police fired tear gas at the crowd, and one person was reported to be shot. "That was the most intense tear gas yet," ANIMAL New York reporter Amy K. Nelson tweeted. "A photog collapsed right in front of me, said canister just rolled right beneath his feet."
"Multiple gun shots. Tear gas by Quick Trip. Escalation," New York Daily News reporter Pearl Gabel tweeted.
Police then ordered everyone who was not "credentialed media" to disperse, saying that someone had been shot and that it was no longer safe to be in the area.
Police now ordering everyone who is not "credentialed media" to disperse or face arrest pic.twitter.com/sXPyjXG6qq
— Ryan Devereaux (@rdevro) August 19, 2014
Reporters on the scene noted that officers repeatedly pointed their weapons at protesters.
During a press conference early Tuesday morning, Johnson said two men were shot on Monday night. No update was available on their condition, but neither were shot by police.
Two fires were set on Monday, one at a business and one at an unoccupied residence, Johnson said. A molotov cocktail and two guns were also confiscated from a vehicle located near the police command center.
Although 31 people were arrested, many were not locals; authorities said that some of the people detained by officers came from as far away as New York and California. Johnson said good people were protesting during daylight hours, and are encouraged to do so again in the morning; however, "violent agitators" were taking advantage of a volatile situation.
"Protesters don't clash with police," Johnson said. "They don't throw molotov cocktails. It is criminals that throw molotov cocktails and fire shots."
Johnson backed the officers' actions, saying the protesters and members of the media were repeatedly asked to return to the sidewalks during clashes. We need to have the roads cleared, he said, for the everyone's safety.
When reporters asked why heavy vehicles and officers in full SWAT gear were facing off with protesters, Johnson said officers had come under fire during the unrest and four had sustained injuries from people throwing rocks and bottles. These units were only deployed into dangerous areas to help the wounded, he said.
Johnson also called for more peaceful protests, particularly during daylight hours. "Let's give attention to the peaceful... Let's not glamorize the acts of criminals," he said.
Monday night's clashes soured the optimism that officers and protesters alike seemed to share earlier in the evening.
Ruth Gordon, 73, was hopeful as she worked to keep up with police orders to move. "I know I’m a slow walker, but eventually I get where I want to go," she said. "God has enabled me to do that, and that’s what I’m doing. And we gonna get justice. We gonna get justice. I don’t know how long it’s gonna take, but until they bring the policeman in that did this shooting, there ain’t gonna be no peace."
"It’s coming," Gordon added. "Peace is coming. I can’t tell you when, but peace is coming," Gordon said.
Ryan Reilly and Amanda Terkel reported from Ferguson. Braden Goyette contributed from New York, Jade Walker contributed from New Hampshire.