FERGUSON, Mo— A day after protests in this embattled city took a violent turn, an evening of demonstrations began with prayers, candlelight, and a call to end the violence.
Dozens of demonstrators gathered near the Ferguson Police Department, where the previous night two officers were shot during a protest, one in the face and one in the chest, to pay respects to the victims. Both are expected to recover.
Rev. Traci D. Blackmon, who organized the event, prayed for the officers, but also encouraged the crowd to continue the protests that began after teenage Michael Brown was shot by a Ferguson police officer last August.
“Over 200 days later and we’re still standing,” Blackmon, of Christ the King United Church of Christ, said according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We cannot be moved and will not give up.”
The shooting was called an "ambush" by Attorney General Eric Holder. On late night television, President Barack Obama called for the immediate arrest of whoever let off the shots, calling the perpetrators "criminals."
The city of Ferguson has recently been in the midst of what one might call a downward spiral, after a Department of Justice report issued last week slammed the city and police department for racially discriminatory practices. That report had already led to multiple police officers, the city manager, and a judge resigning from their positions, before police Chief Thomas Jackson resigned hours prior to the shooting.
Shortly after the vigil wrapped up, a larger crowd started gathering in front of the Ferguson PD headquarters. In contrast to past standoffs, including the one where the shooting occurred, police lined up at the headquarters without riot gear and without helmets.
St. Louis Police Chief Belmar, whose unit has helped the Ferguson PD with ongoing protests since last August, earlier suggested the shooting might signal it's time to change tactics concerning how police deal with the demonstrations.
The St. Louis County Police Department announced that it would immediately "assume command of the security detail regarding protests in the City of Ferguson," with the help of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, effectively relieving Ferguson officers from protest duty.
Compared with the night before, many on the scene noted that the turnout of the post-vigil protest had actually grown since the previous night. They freely blocked South Florissant Drive from traffic, with little engagement from nearby officers.
Just before midnight, organizers gathered everyone present into the middle of the street in order to "formally dismiss" them, and to reiterate that the movement will continue forward.
"We still have a plan, a purpose, and some demands that things must change in our community," Bishop Derrick Robinson, 35, of the Kingdom Destiny Church told the crowd.
"Turn around and do a full circle, just look around," Dhuruba Shakur, 24, urged the protesters. "Earlier ya'll saw a lot of big cameras out right?" he asked, pointing to the news trucks that were still visible in nearby parking lots.
"They tried to come out here and paint the narrative a different way, that we were gonna be aggressive and all of these things, but really we was just voicing our opinion, and we were more organized today than they expected, so we should be proud of that," he said.
"We're not out here to feel good and get on TV," he said. "We're out here to win."
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.