Arrests, violence at Ferguson town hall as protesters confront mayor, clash with police

© Jim Young
A town hall meeting in Ferguson, Missouri suddenly turned violent Thursday evening as police clashed with protesters and Mayor James Knowles quickly departed the scene. Several people were arrested, according to witnesses and local media.

Details are fuzzy, but the incident at the town hall began with protesters gathering outside and calling for Mayor Knowles to resign. Knowles, who has resisted calls for his job, has faced heavy criticism from many in the community ever since the officer-involved killing of 18-year-old African-American Michael Brown last year.

Knowles was there with an official from the Justice Department in order to answer questions from the community, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

At some point, those calling for Knowles to resign made their way into the town hall itself, according to Sarah Kendzior, who has reported from St. Louis for outlets such as Al Jazeera.

However, shortly afterwards, the situation escalated into violence, with “physical fights” occurring between black and white residents. Knowles reportedly left the scene once the situation became physical.

Kendzior later tweeted that the violence apparently began when a white individual knocked a phone out of the hand of a black protester.

Police then tried to separate those who were fighting, but as the situation shifted outside, witnesses said officers began arresting people. A 14-year-old was allegedly “assaulted” by an older white woman, one witness said, yet it was the young teen who was “slammed and arrested” by police.

According to the Post-Dispatch, a 14-year-old girl with asthma needed help breathing and received medical attention from an ambulance.

One image posted online showed officers grappling with protesters and arresting at least one who was taken to the ground.

Online accounts stated that as many as five people were arrested, while the Post-Dispatch stated at least three arrests were made, though only one was taken into custody.

Before the confrontation began, Knowles reportedly warned that anyone blocking traffic during the weekend of August 9 will “face the consequences.” Brown was killed on August 9, 2014, and the one-year anniversary of his death is expected to bring demonstrators out of the woodwork and renewed calls for police reform. His death, and the failure of a grand jury to indict the officer who shot him, resulted in massive protests in Ferguson and elsewhere around the US last summer.