Waukesha photojournalist captures Ferguson protests first-hand

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by Lane Kimble

(Photos courtesy of Abe Van Dyke)

FERGUSON, MO -- Police with assault weapons, people looting stores and smoke-filled streets, just a few of the stunning images from Ferguson, Missouri captured first-hand by Wisconsin native Abe Van Dyke.

"It's just a really weird tension in the air," Van Dyke said over the phone Saturday.  "It's a powder keg ready to go off at any moment."

The Waukesha photographer decided people weren't getting the full story of the week-long protests, sparked after a police officer shot and killed unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown last weekend.

"There's a real strong sense of community and they know the world is watching and they want to see what they're going to do," Van Dyke said.

Van Dyke arrived in the St. Louis suburb Wednesday and found a peaceful, family-friendly atmosphere Thursday with very few police around.  But then came Friday's news: the release of the name of the officer involved and surveillance video of brown allegedly robbing a store moments before he was shot.

"As it got later in the day, tempers started fueling up again," Van Dyke said.

Protesters looted stores, cars filled the streets and things got violent, as heavily armed police returned.  Van Dyke says a protester in a mask hit him, nearly smashed his camera and stole his Kevlar helmet.

"It's less racially motivated," Van Dyke said.  "But then again, when people are angry like during the rioting last night, they do single out us white photographers."

Van Dyke wants people to understand most of the violent protesters aren't actually from Ferguson.  He says groups like the New Black Panthers have helped keep most people in check.

"It seems that the community is just very tired... There's progress being made, but it's slow coming," Van Dyke said.

Progress the photographer plans to see through his own eyes and share through his camera.

"[People ask] Why aren't you just coming home?  That's not what it's about.  You need to actually stay through and tell people  what's happening," Van Dyke said.
 

You can follow Van Dyke on Twitter here and find more on his Facebook page here

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