FERGUSON, Missouri (PIX11) -- This is not how Maria Flores wanted to celebrate this Thanksgiving, supervising a crew as it boarded up the front entrance to her restaurant located on Ferguson’s South Florissant Avenue.
It took 9 years to get her business up and running. “Nine years, and they destroyed it in a minute,” said Flores.
Actually, widespread looting, vandalism and violence unfolded over not just one minute, but an entire night, throughout the entire town of Ferguson following a grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting death of Michael Brown.
We saw the faces in the crowd, ran alongside them as gunshots rang out, and teargas canisters landed at our feet.
These were teenagers, young adults.
Most, if not all of them, black. African-American.
Yes, they represented a small percentage of Ferguson’s larger population, which spent months urging a peaceful reaction to the grand jury decision.
But this week, these young people -- armed with guns, bats, and crowbars -- took it upon themselves to be the “face” of Ferguson’s black community.
And that does not sit well with this store employee.
“They hire black folks. I’m black. We’re a community man. We can’t do this. This ain't the way to do it. This ain't the way to do it. This is what they want. They want to say, look, they can’t control themselves. Look at the animals,” said the unidentified employee.
We met him at the height of the looting. He was powerless to stop it.
With every new crowd, we kept circling back to the same question: Where are these kids’ parents?
An hour later, she was photographed a few miles away at Ferguson City Hall, helping to overturn a police cruiser.
Simply put, this young woman pulled one over on us.
“If they had that opportunity, they would have taken that opportunity. Because some of these people just don’t want to do anything, but take away from people -- to damage property from somebody else, instead of getting jobs for themselves,” said Bobby.
St. Louis County resident Bobby, like so many other older, black, hardworking, law abiding St. Louis County residents, was furious over what he described as the hijacking of a movement.
“It’s very difficult for me to see what’s going on in this neighborhood. I’m a black man, and it hurts me more than anything in the world. Because these young people that had these jobs, they don’t get up in the morning to go to work. They don’t have a job now,” said Bobby.
There is no denying this community’s outrage over the failure to hold Officer Darren Wilson criminally responsible for Michael Brown’s death.
The sentiment here, it was a sham, another example of this area’s criminal justice system protecting a racist police department.
But these mothers have a problem with how these young people went about expressing their anger and frustration.
“The destruction of property is not going to avenge Mike Brown. It is not going to bring that young man back. Is it going to make me a proud homeowner in St. Louis county? No. It’s making me remember the places I tried to escape to make a better life for mine and my children,” said Felicia Willis.
During the summer and fall of 2014, everything changed in Ferguson, Missouri.
One family lost their child.
In response, a town already struggling with race relations violently reached its breaking point.
And an entire generation of young people showed the country, on live television, just how far we have to go to make things better.