Eyewitness: 'The Police Force in Ferguson Is Lying, and I Am Bearing Witness' (PHOTOS)
Editor's Note: Violence, anger, and confusion continues in Ferguson, Mo. Former Sojourners intern and current Digital and Creative Director for PICO Heather Wilson is reporting from the scene and shared her eyewitness account with Sojourners and others late Sunday night. We share it here as an important perspective in the ongoing unrest and confusion. Please keep the safety and wellbeing of all people in Ferguson in your prayers.
"Captain Johnson and the police force in Ferguson IS LYING, AND I AM BEARING WITNESS.
Two hours before curfew, I was photographing at the front of a peaceful march of all generations, calling for justice and peace in Ferguson. It was controlled and respectful—when someone stepped out the traffic lane they were marching in, they were directed back.
Without provocation, armored cars rolled up on us...yelled unintelligibly for 60 seconds and launched tear gas at us without warning. Women...children...even a woman in a wheelchair.
Captain Johnson is saying that bottles and Molotov cocktails were thrown at the front line. TONIGHT I CAN TESTIFY THAT THIS IS UNTRUE.
We fell back to what had been the line of safety last night AND THEY CONTINUED SHOOTING TEARGAS past this line into the peaceful crowd.
They methodically backed everyone down a mile-long stretch of road that has been an understood safe space of protest with flash grenades, teargas, armored cars, and shooting rubber bullets and blocks of wood at the protestors in very tight proximity.
I have never had 50 guns trained at me before, running with camera gear, hands in the air. The inexcusable and irrational level of violence is terrifying.
Towards the end of the evening, more looting did happen. But there was none before the police attacked us repeatedly.
I am horrified. And angry. And inconsolable that people in power are lying yet again."
In an earlier note, Wilson wrote, "I have no words for the aggression displayed tonight. Prayers are deeply needed."
The comments to which Wilson is referring occured at a news conference on Sunday night, where after a weekend of unrest Missouri State Highway Patrol captain Ronald S. Johnson had said that Molotov cocktails were thrown at police and that some demonstrators had looted businesses, thrown firebombs, and opened fire on the police on Sunday night.
Calling these “premeditated criminal acts," Johnson added, “Based on these conditions, I had no alternative but to elevate the level of our response.”
This marks the ninth day of protests and police action since the death of Michael Brown. See more photos from last night's protest here.
Heather Wilson is Digital and Creative Director at PICO.