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What It Is Like Reporting On The Ground In Ferguson

Frank Morris

Gov. Jay Nixon has ordered the National Guard to help restore order in Ferguson, Mo., as protests and sometimes violent confrontations continue.

KCUR's Frank Morris is reporting from Ferguson, and talked with us about his experience there.

Interview highlights:

On whether media coverage has accurately reflected the reality in Ferguson

Well, there are enormous protests here. Daily protests along the strip where the burned out Quik-Trip is. There are enormous rallies here going on almost daily. But what you see the most of are a sort of hardcore cadre of revved up young people who are causing trouble — creating beautiful images backlit by police vehicles, SWAT vehicles and tear gas smoke. You see them a lot more than you see all these other people [protesting peacefully].

And there are a lot of very, very dedicated, some very angry, some very earnest people here. But the outpouring, the protests, just don’t stop. The thing is, the video, the pictures and the audio is so compelling from these guys who are causing trouble and looting, that you see an inordinate amount of them compared to all the other folks.

On who is leading the protests

There are a lot of people who would like to be leading these protests, from every stripe of Christian pastor and preacher here from the black community, to some very capable leaders who are leading some of the protestors. The Black Panther Party is here in force with a different agenda. And then you have sort of, honestly, almost elderly white radicals trying to get in front of this. So there’s a lot of people involved who’ve maybe been waiting for this moment. I don’t think there’s a clear, unified leadership though.

On what it has been like to report among the protesters

For the first day I was here, I barely saw any police officers except at night. And then they kind of came in the first night I was here. The trouble always starts at night. There’s a daytime protest vibe, and then a nighttime protest vibe where, candidly, there’s a lot more drinking, pot smoking and just different people. More agitated people.

There’s a tremendous police presence, but I haven’t been hassled at all. Last night, for instance, with the curfew on, I was walking around. There was supposed to be a little holding pen for journalists. I completely ignored the little holding pen and went walking around with protesters after the curfew for an hour and a half or two hours. No trouble. Obviously, I’m a middle-aged radio reporter, and [the police] can see that about half a block away. So they just left me alone.

School starts for Ferguson students on Monday. What is the community doing to try to make that transition smooth?

They’re getting into school late because of safety concerns. So they want to make it a fresh start for the students. Some of the students are more likely to be traumatized by this than others; the ones that live close to where these military vehicles have been rolling down streets that they’re familiar with — constant honking all day and night, tear gas canisters going off at night, gunfire, and a bunch of businesses being burned out, to the extreme case where kids saw a body of another teenager lying on the street, face down, for about four hours.

So there are various levels. I think the schools are pretty cognizant of this. They’re altering bus routes and looking into counseling, and just trying to get everything together for a successful first day of school.

Eds note: This interview was recorded before classes were canceled Monday for Ferguson-Florrisant schools.

Cody Newill is part of KCUR's audience development team. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill or email him at cody@kcur.org.
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