In a story Nov. 23 about the anniversary of the grand jury’s decision not to charge a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer in the killing of an unarmed black 18-year-old, The Associated Press erroneously reported that Cerner Corp. is adding 200 jobs to the Ferguson economy. It is not, but another company, Centene Corp., is doing that.
A corrected version of the story is below:
A year after grand jury announcement, Ferguson sees progress
In year since grand jury announcement, Ferguson leaders and others see progress, rebuilding
By JIM SUHR and JIM SALTER
FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) A year has passed since parts of Ferguson burned in the rage that followed a grand jury’s decision not to prosecute the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown. In that time, signs of hope have emerged.
Some of the nearly two dozen businesses destroyed in the Nov. 24, 2014, riots have reopened. Concrete barricades that protected the police station are gone. The majority-black St. Louis suburb once led almost exclusively by whites now has a black city manager, municipal judge and two new African-American council members.
It’s not exactly a return to normal, but for many of those who endured last year’s unrest, it’s an improvement.
“We’ve got a ways to go,” said Ron Johnson, the black Missouri State Highway Patrol captain who led the law enforcement effort in Ferguson. “We didn’t get in this place in America overnight, so it’s going to take time. So we have to keep trying.”
Brown, who was black, was 18 and unarmed when he was shot to death in August 2014 by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson during a confrontation in a street. Brown’s death helped spawn the national “Black Lives Matter” movement rebuking police treatment of minorities.
The Justice Department later cleared Wilson, concluding that evidence backed his claim that he shot Brown in self-defense after Brown first tried to grab the officer’s gun during a struggle through the window of Wilson’s police vehicle, then came toward him threateningly after briefly running away.
On that cold November night, after months of sporadic unrest, St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch called an evening news conference to announce the grand jury’s ruling: No indictment.
At that moment, Michael Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, and his stepfather, Louis Head, were sitting atop a car in a sea of people in the middle of the street outside Ferguson police headquarters. As the car speakers blared the announcement, she began to wail and sob.
Head consoled her, then yelled, “Burn this bitch down!” to angry protesters gathered around them.
Chaos followed. Windows were smashed at City Hall. A police car was set on fire. Police responded in armored vehicles, shooting tear gas.
Denise Lieberman, an attorney who is co-chairwoman of a protest group called the Don’t Shoot Coalition, said that lost amid the fires and looting was the fact that police were “hyper-militarized” and aggressive against protesters, the majority of whom were behaving themselves.
“People out there trying to peaceably express themselves shouldn’t have to live in fear of getting beaten up, assaulted with tanks and tear gas and chemical agents by the very actors who were supposed to be protecting them,” she said.
If protesters saw the security presence as over the top, many in Ferguson felt it wasn’t enough, citing the lack of Missouri National Guard presence until after the rioting began.
“I was just so frustrated that the city was left unprotected, that we had been promised National Guard protection,” Ferguson City Council member Brian Fletcher said. “I felt the governor had failed the city of Ferguson. To this day, I’m very bitter about that.”
Over several hours, 80 businesses in and around Ferguson were damaged, and at least 20 were destroyed, many burned to the ground.
Slowly, they’re coming back a Little Caesars pizza restaurant, the Hidden Treasures antique shop and a bakery that is partnering with Starbucks.
City leaders take pride in the fact that Ferguson has had a slight net increase in businesses over the past year.
“That’s a testament to the small business owners committed to this community,” Mayor James Knowles III said. “They’ve received a tremendous amount of support from the residents, and they’ve made that commitment to be here.”
The rebuilding began literally before the smoke cleared. Fletcher recalled people coming from throughout the region to help clean up a day after the riots.
At Cathy’s Kitchen, a diner near the police station, a patio table was thrown through a front window that night. What followed still has owner Cathy Jenkins in awe: Protesters locked arms in front of the eatery, protecting it from further damage.
“I thought that was great,” she said.
Today, a new $5.5 million, 23-unit loft complex is under construction near the police station. Centene Corp, a managed care company, is adding 200 jobs in Ferguson. The Urban League is building an employment training center at the site of the QuikTrip that was burned a day after Brown’s death.
Meanwhile, the city government has undertaken several changes, including placing caps on revenue from municipal court fines and costs. The police department has embraced a model of community policing that involves getting to know residents and hosting meetings to address problems, rather than simply responding to crimes.
Even Lieberman, a protest leader, said change has been evident. She cautioned that more is needed.
“One thing that’s come out of this is that people are talking about race more,” Lieberman said. “It was an intense, intense time, but it still is. We’re still fighting for the very same kinds of reforms.”
Johnson agreed more progress is needed.
“I think we’ll know you’re in a better place when the words ‘both sides’ are taken away and we think of ourselves as one,” he said.
Nearly 5,000 unaccompanied immigrant children were caught illegally crossing the U.S. border with Mexico in October, almost double the number from October 2014, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.
Also, in the figures released Tuesday, the number of family members crossing together nearly tripled from October 2014 from 2,162 to 6,029.
The numbers spiked despite expectations of lower numbers due to the colder winter months coming, better enforcement along the border and efforts by Mexican authorities to stem the stream of Central American migrants to the U.S. Though tens of thousands of women and children from Central America were caught at the border in summer 2014, it had dropped by nearly half during the 2015 federal fiscal that ended Sept. 30.
The 4,973 unaccompanied children caught at the border last month is the highest number that Washington, D.C.-based think tank Washington Office on Latin America has recorded for October since their records began in 2009, said Adam Isacson, a border expert and senior analyst.
The high numbers buck the typical trends of crossings peaking in spring then declining through summer and fall, Isacson said. But there was an uptick in families and children crossing in July, and the numbers have stayed over 4,000 each month since.
“Rather than a big jump, it’s been a steady burn,” he said. “I think we are almost in crisis mode with this many months of sustained arrivals.”
Most children and families trying to cross the border in October were from El Salvador. Increased violence in the tiny country, which averaged 30 murders a day in August, is likely partly to blame, Isacson said. Previously, Guatemala had the most families and children apprehended at the border.
While the Rio Grande Valley remains the center of migration flows in Texas, immigrants are starting to venture farther west. The number of unaccompanied children caught in Del Rio sector jumped from 120 to 237, while 187 children were apprehended in the remote Big Bend area, up from just 13 a year ago.
According to internal intelligence files from the Homeland Security Department, most families interviewed told Customs and Border Protection officials that smugglers decided where they would try to cross. They reported that the cost ranged from about $5,000 to cross the border near Matamoros or Reynosa, Mexico, across the border from the Rio Grande Valley, but was about $1,500 to $2,000 to cross near Ciudad Acuna, across the river from Del Rio.
Carlos Bartolo Solis, director of a shelter in Arriaga, Chiapas, said migrants are eschewing the dangerous train that begins its journey near his shelter after raids by Mexican immigration authorities. The flow of migrants, however, has not diminished, he said, adding that they are moving along other routes, often walking.
“They are moving in hiding,” he said in Spanish.
The administration was caught off guard by the sudden surge of children and families in 2014 and made several efforts to curb the flow of people crossing the border illegally, including media campaigns in Central America to scare people out of attempting the dangerous journey.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement this week that the campaigns are still in place and highlight that “those attempting to come here illegally are a top priority for removal.”
Immigrant families caught illegally crossing the border between July and September told U.S. immigration agents they made the dangerous trip in part because they felt they were likely to succeed, according to the intelligence files. Immigrants spoke of “permisos,” or passes, that they believed would allow them to remain in the United States.
Associated Press writers Alicia A. Caldwell in Washington, D.C. and Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report. Follow Seth Robbins on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/serobbins
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) The body of a suspected suicide bomber was found at the scene of an attack on Tunisia’s presidential guard, and the Islamic State group claimed responsibility Wednesday for the attack that left 13 people dead.
Tuesday’s attack on a bus carrying Tunisia’s presidential guards involved about 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of military explosives, the Interior Ministry said.
The blast rattled the country after a particularly violent year. If the Islamic State group was indeed behind it, it is the latest of several major attacks in Europe and the Mideast seeding terror well beyond its base in Syria and Iraq. Tunisian authorities discovered the body of a 13th person in the bus, believed to be the “terrorist who caused the explosion,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement Wednesday. Ministry spokesman Walid Louguini told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the 13th body couldn’t be identified by fingerprints because no fingers were found. The ministry said a DNA analysis of the body is underway.
The government declared the blast a terrorist attack and imposed a 30-day nationwide state of emergency, with troops fanned out across the capital. The Islamic State group issued a statement posted online Wednesday saying a militant it identified as Abu Abdullah al-Tunisi carried out the attack after infiltrating the bus and killing around 20 “apostates.”
Earlier this year, the country suffered two major attacks by Islamic extremists that targeted tourist sites. The blast on a tree-lined avenue in the heart of Tunis is a new blow to a country that is seen as a democratic model for the region. It came days after authorities visibly increased security in the capital and deployed security forces in unusually high numbers.
The U.S. State Department denounced the attack and the U.N. Security Council pledged support for Tunisia’s young democracy.
Iyad Madani, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation the world’s largest bloc of Muslim-majority countries strongly condemned the attack. In a statement Wednesday, Madani expressed his solidarity with Tunisia and said such acts of terrorism are seeking to alter the country’s “moderation and tolerance-driven model of society.”
Zeina Karam in Beirut and Aya Batrawy contributed to this report.