Wherever there are protests by people with legitimate grievances, criminals, vandals, looters, anarchists, lunatics, pickpockets and fools infiltrate the crowd and use the moment to attack, to smash, to burn, to injure, to loot, to disrupt, to discredit the cause. Sometimes it is the authorities themselves who move among the crowd to discredit the protesters. Anyone who detects such criminals amid the protest should separate himself from the troublemaker and expose him in a loud voice to the crowd.
A mostly sedate protest against the police shooting of a Ferguson teenager descended into hazy chaos late Monday night, as police fired several rounds of tear gas and chased down die-hard protesters, amid reports that shots had been fired and someone struck.
A generally orderly, if emotional, rally over the death of Michael Brown turned into a tense standoff around 11 p.m. after police dramatically arrested two demonstrators, and a phalanx of riot officers took position at one end of a blocked-off section of road.
The officers, backed up by three or four armored vehicles, advanced and retreated toward a cluster of protesters who had congregated in the middle of the street.
Several rally organizers, meanwhile, tried to restore order to the gathering, which they said was being undermined by a few "provocateurs" determined to make trouble and force a police reaction.
Then shots of some kind could be heard at the other end of the street, at least some of them from tear gas canisters fired by police. Wafts of acrid gas spread over the area as protesters and members of the large media contingent coughed and covered their eyes. A fire erupted in a restaurant near the confrontation, which protesters blamed on an errant tear-gas canister.
The police line then moved forward. After the streets were mostly cleared, authorities ordered reporters to leave, saying someone had been hit by gunfire.
Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, who is in charge of security in Ferguson, said bottles and Molotov cocktails were thrown from the crowd and that some officers had come under heavy gunfire. At least two people were shot and 31 were arrested, he said. He did not have condition updates on those who were shot. Johnson said four officers were injured by rocks or bottles.
Demonstrators no longer faced the neighbourhood's midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew, but police told protesters they couldn't assemble in a single spot and had to keep moving. Officers trying to enforce tighter restrictions used bullhorns to order protesters to disperse. Police deployed noisemakers, and fired tear gas and flash grenades.
After the streets were mostly cleared, authorities ordered reporters to leave. At least three journalists were detained before being released.
A photographer for the Getty photo agency was arrested while covering the demonstrations and later released. Two German reporters were arrested and detained for three hours. Conservative German daily Die Welt said correspondent Ansgar Graw and reporter Frank Herrmann, who writes for German regional papers, were arrested after allegedly failing to follow police instructions to vacate an empty street. They said they followed police orders.