FERGUSON, Mo. -- Each night on the streets of this city, the nation's latest symbol of racial unrest, there are two waves of protesters. Call them the A team and the B team.
The A team comes out in the early evening, and its demonstrations are largely peaceful. These are people committed to the idea of non-violent protest. They are usually done by about 11 p.m. Many of them have jobs, and they have to work the next day.
These are people like Cynthia Favored, a St. Louis community activist who says she has joined the Ferguson demonstrations every night since they started on Aug. 10. She says she goes home by about 10:30 p.m. each night. "I go out there to show my support for our young people and for the Brown family," she says.
They are people like Bishop Edwin Bass, who runs a St. Louis program for the Church of God in Christ that works to improve the quality of life in American cities. He's been at the protests every night. "The vast majority of the people out there are quite sincere protesters," he says. "But there's a small percentage of people out there who have a totally different agenda that has nothing to do with Michael Brown.
"They're kind of out there stoking the crowd," Bass says. "Some of these anarchists have provided the young men with Molotov cocktails and encouraged them to throw them."
Those are the B team protesters, the people referred to by Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson as "a dangerous dynamic in the night" and "agitators and criminals." He told CNN Thursday: "There are some outsiders. There's a lot of people who live here … We can't just blame it on outside instigators."
Of 75 protesters arrested Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, none were from Ferguson, but 60 were from Missouri, including 12 from the adjacent city of St. Louis, according to jail records. The others were from such places as Des Moines, Austin, Chicago, Cincinnati, Brooklyn and the Bronx, N.Y., and Mount Vernon, Ill.
The overwhelming majority were charged with failure to disperse. Three were cited for unlawful use of a weapon, two for first-degree burglary and possession of burglary tools, one for possession of burglary tools and first-degree property damage, and one for interfering with an officer.
Late Monday night, with police and protesters in a tense standoff that would erupt into a confrontation, a young black male who looked to be about 17 crept along West Florissant Avenue toward the intersection of Ferguson Avenue, looked about furtively, then flung what appeared to be a plastic bottle of water toward police. He fled back down West Florissant, apparently unobserved by the police.
Bass says the dire economic situation of many young blacks leaves them receptive to those who would incite them to violence.
"There's a depressed, defeated, frustrated view, a lack of hope that really permeates young people right now," he says. "Some of them feel there is no place for them. Some of them are easily used for other people's objectives."
He says some of the small group of protesters who seek chaos "work to evoke the anger of the people and of law enforcement. They are stoking the emotions of protesters and law enforcement to create a situation that they benefit from."
Tuesday night, a police officer from nearby St. Ann pointed a semi-automatic assault rifle at a protester following a verbal exchange, according to Brian Schellman, a spokesman for the unified command providing security at the protests.
"A St. Louis County police sergeant walked over and immediately took action, forcing the officer to lower the weapon and escorting him away from the area," Schellman said in a written statement. "The unified command strongly feel these actions are inappropriate and not indicative of the officers who have worked daily to keep the peace."
Early Wednesday morning, Johnson said he had observed a more muted level of violence during the Tuesday night protests. He attributed that to "elders in the community, volunteers, activists and the clergy" coming out in larger numbers and interacting with protesters. He also cited a shift in police tactics. Officers were positioned in a less confrontational posture, dispersed along the streets rather than in one intimidating line blocking protesters.
As Wednesday evening drew near, it was unknown whether the A team or the B team would decide the course of the night's protests.