(FERGUSON, Mo.) — Police fired tear gas at protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, overnight after a police car was set on fire, as violence erupted in the city for the second consecutive night.
Police arrested at least 44 people overnight, including at least four on felony charges, St. Louis County Police chief Jon Belmar said at an early-morning news conference.
“The majority of those arrests were misdemeanors,” Belmar said. “Most of those were either failure to obey a lawful order or failure to disperse. We did make four felony arrests…one was an unlawful use of a weapon, and the [others] were assaults against police officers.”
Rioting occurred at Ferguson’s city hall building, with windows broken and the police car vandalized, leading officers to fire the tear gas — the only place where tear gas was used, Belmar said.
Other incidents were reported near a memorial for slain teen Michael Brown, as well as an attempted looting at a Walgreen’s store, Belmar said.
More than 2,000 National Guardsmen were deployed to Ferguson Tuesday, helping to restore some level of peace in the city. Questions lingering over whether the National Guard troops should have been in place Monday, with Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III calling the delay “deeply disturbing.”
“It’s hard to speculate if the National guard came out Monday night, that things would have turned out differently,” Belmar said. Belmar said the violence from Monday night and Tuesday morning reached a scale that “fortunately we’ve seldom seen here in this country.”
Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson said authorities were caught off guard by the level of violence following a grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the Aug. 9 shooting of Brown, who was unarmed.
“None of us could have imagined what had happened Monday night,” Johnson said. “If we had a crystal ball, maybe we would have done things differently.”
One factor that hindered firefighting efforts Tuesday morning was gunfire, authorities said. Few gunshots were reported Wednesday morning, Johnson said.
The situation in Ferguson has drawn national attention, with rallies and protests held across the country following Monday’s grand jury decision. In Oakland, California, 39 people were arrested for crimes ranging from failure to disperse and public intoxication to burglary and assaulting a police officer.
The Christmas in St. Louis Foundation postponed the Ameren, Missouri, Thanksgiving Day Parade, citing unrest in the community.
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