Having grown up near Seattle, I'm no stranger to riots -- the WTO riot was a huge thing, as are the Mayday riots we get every other year or so. Lots of peaceful protesters, and always some group causing trouble for the sake of causing trouble.
But man, what is currently happening in St. Louis is downright scary.
Another young black kid being shot to death. Supposedly he had some kind of scuffle with a local policeman. The cop subsequently shot him five times until he died, despite him holding up his hands and shouting "don't shoot!" The police say he attempted to steal the cop's gun, but eyewitnesses say that he was not attempting to be violent at all -- simply trying to flee. Truth? Unknown. But it caused the community -- primarily African-American -- to begin a protest in the name of justice.
This both comes on the heels of various other instance where people have gotten away with shooting unarmed black kids, and years of racial tension in Ferguson itself.
After several nights of protesting and rioting, the police have more or less got the place under martial law -- you're to be in your home by 11, they're dispersing any crowd (peaceful or otherwise) using any means necessary. A young woman photographing the riots was shot in the head (but has lived). There's a huge cloud of tear gas hanging over much of the neighborhood. Heavy armored SWAT trucks, sharpshooters, K9 units, you name it.
They have also banned air traffic, preventing news choppers from entering the area, and they fired tear gas at official reporters from Al Jazeera US. They've been ordering people to turn off their cellphone and cameras. A Washington Post journalist attempting to film an arrest was effectively removed from the scene by force. Streets blocked off, preventing people on foot from going straight home.
Getting more tense by the day, especially after the most recent shootings. The more the police crack down, the more the crowds get riled up, and things are escalating. Some people are now throwing Molotovs back at the cops.
Footage of Al Jazeera being tear gassed:
And here is a link to a reddit social media livestream:
It's just crazy, man. There are definitely riots going on, which is unfortunate, and there are definitely some people out there trying to cause trouble. The protesters have condemned them. But police seem indiscriminate about which groups they're using force on -- from rioters, to peaceful protesters, to actual news teams. Any gathered group is being targeted.
I get breaking up rioters/looters. That's sensible. But manhandling the press and peaceful people the way they've been, along with cutting off air traffic? That's moving into scary dystopian territory, especially with how well-armed the police are. They also seem to deliberately be arresting/targeting people who are recording events -- either through mass media or social media.
All in all, this is scary, and a damn shame. Apparently people in the area feel like this has been brewing for some time.