This Weekend in Ferguson: 'Trash' Talk and Arson Arrest

12-29-14 Mike Brown memorial
On November 14, 2014, a woman stops to visit the memorial at the site where Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Jim Young/Reuters

An eventful holiday weekend in the Ferguson, Missouri, area saw the destruction of a memorial to Michael Brown, the suspension of a police officer who described the memorial as "trash," and the arrest of a protester for arson following the shooting of another black teenager in neighboring Berkeley last week.

On Friday, an informal memorial to Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson in August, was vandalized when a passing car scattered its contents, witnesses said.

Supporters rushed to clean up and reconstruct the memorial, which consists of flowers, stuffed animals and other items and is located near the Canfield Green apartment complex where Brown was shot.

In response to the incident, Timothy Zoll, public information officer for the Ferguson Police Department, told The Washington Post Friday, "I don't know that a crime has occurred," adding that no crime had been reported. "But a pile of trash in the middle of the street? The Washington Post is making a call over this?"

The officer ultimately admitted that he made these comments to the reporter, according to a city of Ferguson statement released Saturday, though at first he "misled his superiors when asked about the contents of the interview." The statement, which does not identify Zoll by name, said the city had placed the department's public information officer on unpaid leave.

"The City of Ferguson wants to emphasize that negative remarks about the Michael Brown memorial do not reflect the feelings of the Ferguson Police Department and are in direct contradiction to the efforts of city officials to relocate the memorial to a more secure location," the statement said. The city and particularly the police department "are focused on creating a trusting relationship with the entire community" and taking steps to make the force more effective.

Also on Saturday, St. Louis prosecutors charged 19-year-old protester Joshua Williams with first-degree arson after fires were set inside and outside of a QuikTrip convenience store in Berkeley early on Wednesday morning, as well as with second-degree burglary and misdemeanor stealing. This followed the fatal shooting by police of 18-year-old Antonio Martin at a gas station across the street from the convenience store the previous night.

Ferguson has been the epicenter of ongoing protests since Brown's shooting, many of them peaceful but some involving looting and rioting. Martin's shooting on Tuesday sparked additional protests this week.

Williams, who drew media and public attention after Brown's shooting as an advocate for peaceful protest, confessed to the crimes, police said, and was being held on $30,000 bond following his arrest. Some of Williams's supporters gathered outside the St. Louis County Justice Center on Friday and Saturday to protest his arrest.

"Josh is one of the young activists, and all of us have taken close to him. We got to know his heart, and he got to know ours," Bishop Derrick Robinson, of Kingdom Destiny Fellowship International, told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. "He's a great kid, an educated kid, a child who knows what he wants and is very active in the community."

Both supporters and critics of Williams took to social media to express their reactions to his arrest: