Who was arrested in Ferguson?
By the time the tear gas started to clear in Ferguson, Missouri, at least 212 people had been arrested over nearly two weeks of clashes with police. A lot has been said about the fact that just a handful of them were actually from Ferguson.
But there’s more to the story. A close look at the official arrest logs of the St. Louis County police, which CNN obtained Friday, shows that while some people did travel to Ferguson to protest the shooting of a black teen by a white police officer, a majority of the people arrested live in the St. Louis area.
More than half of them were charged with a relatively minor offense: refusing to disperse when asked by police.
Ferguson is a small suburban town, just 21,000 people packed into six square miles flush against St. Louis International Airport. The unrest started when unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot to death August 9 by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. Anger over the shooting, and the Ferguson police department’s initial refusal to identify the officer who shot Brown, set off nightly confrontations between police and protesters.
The worst violence came nine days after the shooting: on Monday into the wee hours of Tuesday. Police responded in militarized fashion, firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd and confiscating firearms, Molotov cocktails and, reportedly, water bottles filled with urine. There was sporadic looting.
The force of the police response has been sharply criticized. But the finger-pointing went both ways. Some officials in Ferguson blamed outsiders for stirring up trouble.
A deeper dive into the arrest logs and a search of social media and online news accounts show some self-avowed “communists” and others who could be considered “agitators.” But the vast majority of arrestees who gave out-of-town addresses were college students, peaceniks, legal advisers and journalists.
The logs compiled by the St. Louis County police cover August 10 through 22 and list 212 arrests in Ferguson. They can’t tell the full story, since they do not include arrests made by Ferguson police. They do not identify the arrestees by age or race. No incident reports are attached to provide details.
But the numbers do tell this simple story: 130 people were charged with refusal to disperse, 18 or so with burglary — which may or may not be related to looting — and nine with disorderly conduct. A handful of people were charged with resisting arrest and two people were charged with careless driving.
And, 20 people appear to have made a serious tactical error by joining the crowd in Ferguson: They were picked up on existing arrest or fugitive warrants.
Seven of the people arrested were journalists trying to cover the story. The list does not include reporters from the Washington Post and Huffington Post, who were arrested in the early days of the protests. It does include a Getty photographer who was arrested, along with several international journalists and representatives from online media sites. An eighth was a college senior, a journalism major photographing the protests for a newspaper in Cincinnati.
Thursday night saw an eerie quiet descend, and the number of arrests dropped sharply; only eight were reported.
By Ann O’Neill