Ferguson, Mo. -- For more than a week, demonstrators have taken to the streets of this St. Louis suburb to protest the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. There have been moments of danger and unease, with a handful of arrests, the presence of armored cars, the use of tear gas and incidents of looting.
The heart of the commotion is on one of Ferguson's main streets populated with restaurants, stores and markets. But just a few hundred feet away is a leafy residential area populated by families who have nowhere to go when the chaos comes their way -- and they're getting frustrated.
“I’m supportive of what happened, I would like justice just as well as anybody else,” said Mark Davis as he pulled his car up to the intersection of Clarion Drive and Canfield Street, a few feet from the spot where Officer Darren Wilson shot Brown over a week earlier. “But I believe police are forgetting that people live here.”
Since the demonstrations began, police have placed concrete blockades at various intersections in the neighborhood, some reinforced with piles of sticks from a downed tree. The obstacles are intended to make it easier for law enforcement to track violent suspects who may flee into the area, but it’s just another one of the ways life is now more difficult for people living so close to the action.
Officers also often block entrances to the neighborhood with squad cars or armored vehicles as the nights go on, and trying to get through isn’t easy. Residents say police make them step away from their cars and show identification to prove they live in the area. Some say that when they drive up, cops have guns drawn and trained on them.
“It sucks,” Davis said. “What did I have to do with what went on? I have to live here, this is my neighborhood. I don’t need to feel like I’m at an ECP,” he said. Davis, a military veteran, was referring to military "entry control points" in war zones.
Much of the commotion in the past 10 days has occurred in front of the QuikTrip convenience store and gas station. When officers decided the crowd was becoming unsafe, they would line up across the street and ask them to disperse. If that failed, police donned gas masks and showered the crowd with tear gas cannisters, enveloping the whole area in thick white smoke -- sending protesters scattering into the residential areas.
While locals are supportive of the protesters, they worry for themselves and their families.
“At night we just stay in the house now, it’s safer,” said Angela Tomlin, 36, who lives on Glen Owen Drive.
“It feels awful in here,” Tomlin said. “There was nothing we could say or do, it just happens.”
Protesters have sometimes roamed the quiet streets in small groups. Tomlin said that when she tucks her kids in at night, she makes sure they aren’t near any windows that demonstrators might break.
“I think protesting is a good thing but the negative part is just too bad,” she said. At night, Tomlin hears the helicopters flying over and protesters setting off fireworks, and smells the tear gas drifting from the conflict areas.
“I feel like they’re being selfish, this needs to stop,” she said.