Ferguson, Missouri: Inside an American City Under Siege

Protestors demanding justice for Michael Brown faced off with police enforcing a state-mandated curfew.
8:36 | 08/19/14

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Transcript for Ferguson, Missouri: Inside an American City Under Siege
Tonight the National Guard has taken control of Ferguson, Missouri, a city so torn, so tense, it is now essentially militarized. We'll give you an extra look at what it's really like on the front lines in Ferguson. ABC news correspondent Alex Peres and "Nightline" producer Chris James spent 48 hours out on the streets with both police and protesters and here's what they saw. You are subject to arrest. Reporter: Midnight in Ferguson. An entire city bracing for lockdown. Really like, you know, the last battle. Because we've been done unfair. Reporter: Protesters gearing up for another night in his hometown, a city under siege. Why are you wearing a Banda bandana? Tear gas. It's not going to do anything but help me breathe. I won't be able to see. I won't be able to see what I'm doing. You must leave immediately! Reporter: On the other side, police in full force. You are violating the state-imposed curfew! Reporter: Armed to the teeth. Prepared to do what it takes to enforce a state-mandated curfew. For the protesters, it isn't just about the right to free speech and assembly. They say they're here fighting for their freedom. I'm here because I feel like the constitution doesn't have this. Let the police know that we want justice for this trial. Reporter: Justice they say for 18-year-old Michael brown, the unarmed teenager fatally shot six times, twice in the head, by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing. But this morning Michael brown's mother told our robin Roberts she wants charges brought. How can peace be restored? With justice. And what is justice to you? Being fair. Arresting this man. And making him accountable for his actions. Reporter: These protests have spread globally. You' our cameras had access to both sides of the front. With the S.W.A.T. Team struggling to maintain order -- I want everybody behind the vehicles, they're lighting cocktails right now. Reporter: And the protesters. "Nightline" producer Chris James is there on the front lines as shots ring out and tear gas rips through the air. It was an awful experience. Hurt my nose, my throat. I couldn't really think straight. Just kind of ran for the lights. It was scary. Reporter: State senator maria chappelle-nadal knows what it feels like. I was subjected to tear gas two of three days. I was scared. A lot of intimidation by police officers. Reporter: Born and raised in St. Louis, Ferguson is one of her districts. She's at the quick trip gas station which has become a symbol of the movement. Behind us is the result of looting last Sunday where a bunch of people were angry and upset and decided to just raid the store and then they set it on fire. Reporter: Her goal tonight is to keep things peaceful in a town where peace seems a long and distant hope. There was more people in Iraq in 2010 than in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2014. Reporter: She thinks the police have failed in their heavy-handed approach and have created more violence than they have stopped. In this St. Louis suburb, tensions with police have long run high. In a town where 68% of the population is black, there are only three black police officers. This group of people represent the victims. Because any one them could have been Michael brown depending on the day and time. Reporter: Their frustration led them to the streets and to social media where an explosion of tweets thrust the case to national attention. Haiku is one of the most active on social media. A rapper, his real name is Brian L Lowman, and he made a name for himself. Shots fired, a man got hit in the stomach twice -- Reporter: By documenting all the injustices he says he has seen. Just marching and they tear gas you. It burns. As soon as the sun goes down, man, it's like a third world country that's fighting for liberation once again. Because it really is like that. Reporter: He feels it's his duty. In the past week he's gone from having 300 instagram followers to more than 7,500. He takes us to the spot where brown was shot down. Here supporters have built a makeshift memorial. A hand made tomb stone. Signs calling for justice. Above all, love. They executed that young man. Reporter: Sherry and Melo live across the street. They left his body out close to five hours. They covered him up after a while. Nobody wanted them to plant something on the young man to try to justify why they shot him. You know, so everybody was watching. Reporter: When tensions flared they sent their son and daughter too stay with grandparents out of safety concerns. For them to see somebody lying on the street, you know, they got questions. They want to know right now, because our kids are not home, why they can't come home. We can't allow them to come home. Reporter: Why can't you? Because looters do stupid stuff like blow up a gas station. You know. Gas. What happens if something like that explodes? Reporter: Sherry says this day was bound to come. The community as a whole is just tired of being harassed by the police. In its entirety. This is just like -- this is it. This is the last -- this is the straw that broke the camel's back, this is it. Everybody's standing up. They don't want to take any more. Reporter: The hopelessness she feels echoed by so many black Americans across this country. ? Reporter: Including rapper j-cole who released his emotions through song, a poignant tribute to brown called "Be free." ? ? all I want to do is break the chains off ? ? all I want to do is be free all I want to do is be free ? Reporter: He says he's not here as a celebrity. I'm saying that we ask for equality. It's still a struggle, it's insane. My baby, your baby, everybody's baby could be the next Mike. No matter what he was or what he did. Look at how he died. I don't care if he killed somebody, you don't kill a man like that. Reporter: But reports of shooting have both police and civilians have led to a large police presence. The Missouri state patrol has been on watch for days. They're led by the charismatic captain Ron Johnson, a native of Ferguson. His approach is a stark contrast from the Ferguson police. Thankful to be here to protect you. Reporter: He's determined to change public perceptions. When you hear that from the community what are your thoughts? Allow the cameras. We grieve with each other, hug each other, slap hands. We do that all the time. Reporter: Changing perception won't come easily. Riot scenes play over and over like bad dreams. Over the past two days these streets looked like war Zones. We followed haiku as he picked up a friend fresh from the standoff with police forces. He's just been tear gassed. Been shot at every night by the cops. Man. This is Crazy. Reporter: But he's hunkering down for a fight. Tonight as the National Guard takes their position, haiku says until there's an arrest, quiet will come no time soon. I'm staying with the people. It basically is going to boil down to the police who are being excessive and they don't care about me because they've already gassed me. They've already shot people standing next to me. So if it comes down to choosing sides I'm choosing the people. Reporter: For "Nightline" I'm Alex Peres, Ferguson, Missouri. Thanks to Alex Peres and

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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