FERGUSON, Mo. (NBCNC) — There is a deep sigh of relief coming from Ferguson, Mo., Friday morning after a peaceful night — for the first time since an unarmed teenager was shot and killed by police in the St. Louis suburb last weekend. Maybe it was the new strategy and leadership for police on the ground — maybe the call for an end to the violence from the governor and president. But whatever the case, things were much different here overnight.
For the first time this week, Ferguson was calm overnight — calm, but not quiet. Hundreds of protesters still spilled out into the streets, and police still stood guard. But this time, it was a march — not the melee that played out the four nights before.
“There is a different feel,” said Pastor Michael Robinson. “There’s not as much tension. I feel a great positive force that’s in the air. There’s a lot of hope.”
For the first time since Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, was killed during a confrontation with police, the gas masks and riot gear were gone and state troopers walked with angry residents in a show of unity.
“I was extremely excited, emotional — almost to the point of tears — because the unity between the people, regardless of race, everybody holding hands, lifting up their hands,” said one demonstrator.
It’s a sense of release and relief for this community, led by one of their own.
Missouri State Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson is a Ferguson resident and was assigned by the governor to take control of security in the city.
“Hopefully, they’ll go home and say, ‘You know what? This is going to be all right and we gain a sense of trust,’” said Johnson.
It’s trust that does not come easy in a community still angry and grieving. But for at least one night, they’re marching away from the violence that had defined their city and these protests. Instead, they’re taking a step toward healing, but both protesters and police seem to understand it’s just one step in a long and difficult journey here.