Violent, Fire-Filled Ferguson Protests Top Story on Network Morning Shows

Ferguson Protests November - H 2014
AP Photo/David Goldman

'Good Morning America,' 'Today' and 'CBS This Morning' all aired videos of Monday night's unrest and featured reports from correspondents on the scene

The violent protests in Ferguson, Mo., on Monday night were the top story on Good Morning America, Today and CBS This Morning on Tuesday. All three of the network morning shows opened with extended reports on the protests, including fire-filled video of blazes raging from buildings and cars and violent clashes between protesters and police officers. The three networks also all reported on the grand jury evidence that was released overnight, including photos of officer Darren Wilson and his version of his confrontation with Michael Brown.

Good Morning America and CBS This Morning brought in their network legal experts to analyze the grand jury's decision not to indict Wilson despite his shooting and killing Brown. They also all aired clips of President Obama's press conference, in which he echoed the Brown family's call for peaceful action by protesters.

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GMA's George Stephanopoulos reported on the protests from St. Louis, where he told Robin Roberts, back in the show's New York studio, that while things were relatively calm at 7 a.m. ET on Tuesday morning, the night before was "chaos."

"The reaction was swift; it was violent; shots were fired; protesters set fire to buildings, looted businesses. The National Guard marched in, and tear gas was used," Stephanopoulos recapped over video of the unrest.

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GMA also noted that peaceful protests occurred in Washington, New York and L.A., despite protesters shutting down part of the highway in that last instance. The ABC morning show also showed the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and noted that the local police chief said the community had been torn apart.

The network also aired a report from Alex Perez in Ferguson, standing near a strip mall with windows shattered that was still smoldering, with firefighters still battling hotspots. More video of the unrest was shown, including protesters throwing objects and bottles at police cruisers, and a message from authorities to stop doing that, as was a clip of Brown's mother breaking down in tears as the grand jury's decision was announced.

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Both GMA and Today noted that the FAA had suspended flights to St. Louis overnight, which the ABC morning show said has produced some delays and cancellations. Stephanopoulos also talked to Ferguson commission member and Teach for America leader Brittany Packnett, who said in response to the verdict and other police-involved shootings and shootings of unarmed youngsters across the country, "What we see is a systemic injustice that will require meaningful action going forward."

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GMA also brought in ABC News legal analyst Dan Abrams and noted that the Department of Justice was still investigating the incident, as did CBS This Morning, where legal analyst Rikki Klieman said she expects there will be a civil suit by the Brown family for wrongful death.

Both Good Morning America and Today spoke to Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump, who appeared remotely via video. On Today, which opened its broadcast with live images of fires burning in Ferguson on Tuesday morning, Crump revealed the Brown family's shock and disappointment at the verdict and subsequent protests.

"She [Brown's mother] was absolutely shocked. She believed that he would at least be charged with something," Crump said on Today. "She really had faith that the system would work for her child too. So she was just profoundly disappointed, as only a mother could be."

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Brown's father, meanwhile, was "very disappointed" in the images he saw from the protests, Crump said, adding that he continues "to ask the community not to engage in violence."

Overall, though, Crump said he was disappointed in the justice system.

"The system needs to be indicted. This system is completely unfair to the citizens, especially African-American and minority citizens when you have police involved shootings," he said. "This system, over and over again, exonerates police officers for killing young people of color."

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Today correspondent Craig Melvin reported on the unrest from the scene, saying he was "standing where much of this chaos happened last night," where gunshots rang out and looting and fires occurred. He spoke to a local business owner who was there protecting his property. NBC also aired video of correspondent Miguel Almaguer taking cover as gunshots were heard. Melvin recounted seeing an officer hit in the head with a bottle outside the Ferguson police department. Today also aired videos of violent clashes with protesters, smoke bombs, tear gas and fires and an early-morning police press conference, in which the St. Louis County police chief said the situation Monday night was "much worse" than what happened in August, after Brown was shot.

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CBS This Morning's Omar Villafranca, reporting from in front of a burned-out building, also described what he saw the night before, including seeing a man setting fire to an American flag, and noting that his producer, who has covered wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, had told him and his team to duck at one point when the situation got really serious and they heard gunshots nearby. Villafranca added that he saw people stopping traffic and starting fires, but he said it was unclear to him whether those people were protesters or people trying to take advantage of a vulnerable situation.

CBS This Morning also spoke to NAACP president Cornell William Brooks.