Covering the Ferguson unrest
By Mario Anzuoni
At 6:30 a.m. on Monday, August 11 my phone rang.
I was told to pack my riot gear and head to Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis in Missouri, to cover unrest that had broken out there following the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer.
The situation in Ferguson was fluid and extremely tense, especially around a convenience store that had been looted and burned over the weekend. Minutes away from where the shooting took place, this store had become the epicenter of the protest.
I understood the dynamics of the unrest quite quickly. During the day people would gather peacefully by the convenience store and everything looked and felt relatively under control.
There were families, young kids and even a man who, despite his 92 years, was holding signs in the middle of the street, joining in with the demonstration.
For days, more and more tension had been building between protesters and police, who looked like they were ready to go to war. When a protester threw a bottle towards the police line advancing to clear the street, the situation escalated quickly. Here came the tear gas, smoke bombs and flash bangs.
It was chaos, everyone started running. I was briefly caught between the police line and the protesters but I was able to run into a side street and find cover behind some houses.
I captured a few frames and then was forced to move, since every time I was spotted, more smoke bombs and tear gas would land a few feet away from me, pushing me backwards.
It was clear that despite the heavy media presence police were going to clear everyone from the area. This went on for almost an hour.
As I was behind a hedge taking photos of a television position that had been abandoned when reporters fled from the tear gas, police caught up with me.
Shining their flashlight and pointing their weapons they ordered me to come out, so I surfaced through the smoke with my hands up holding my press badge. I was briskly ushered in the direction of what they called a safer zone, towards a Taco Bell parking lot.
There, as I was stepping into my vehicle, I saw a group of officers with their weapons drawn approach and check a vehicle, then briefly detain a woman.