Ferguson riots: 'I didn't foresee an evening like this': Why was jury decision announced at 8pm?

Speculation ranges from police wanting to let people get home from work - to maximising their own overtime pay

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The decision not to indict the police officer who killed Michael Brown has resulted in an almost immediate flare-up of violent protests, prompting the question – why was it announced at 8pm?

The grand jury in Clayton, Missouri had reached a decision some hours earlier, but Prosecutor Bob McCulloch called a press conference to announce the verdict only once night had fallen.

Early guidance from McCulloch’s office suggested the decision would be revealed “after rush hour”, and many have suggested that 8pm was chosen to give people time to get home safely.

Others suggested that it would allow schools and businesses to shut up shop and prepare for the worst – with many choosing to board up windows. This morning, those measures seem clearly to have failed. In a press conference this morning, St Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said 150 gunshots were reported overnight, 12 businesses were burned to  the ground, two police cars set on fire and at least 29 arrests made.

Belmar said the riots were “probably much worse than the worst night we ever had in August” after Brown was killed, adding: “I didn’t foresee an evening like this.”

Many will accuse him and McCulloch of being shortsighted – and searched for ulterior motives for the 8pm announcement timing. Some suggested police “wanted civil unrest to occur”.

Others said they waited until night had fallen “so they could immediately tell people to go home”.

Perhaps even more cynically, Miami Herald writer Joseph Goodman asked: “I wonder how much more overtime the cops make in St Louis for an announcement at night compared to during the day?”

Meanwhile, the riots continue and the National Guard in Ferguson have deployed tear gas and rubber bullets.