"How does a person look suspicious? What do you have to be wearing to look suspicious?" she asked before mimicking an offending police officer, " 'Where you going? What you doing? How you doing it?' It's none of your business."

Outside his bustling barbershop on a muggy Missouri afternoon, Mike Knox, his ears tucked under a spiffy St. Louis Cardinals snapback, recalled how one of his sons, an A student, was arrested with several other kids in the parking lot of an auto parts store. They'd met there because it was a central location to rendezvous before a game of basketball.

When Knox picked his son up, police told him he hadn't been charged, just taken away by police, said Knox, adding that he's been pulled over for DWB, or "driving while black," a common complaint in Ferguson.

At a protest in a parking lot across from the police station, Maurice Phipps, 22, a Ferguson resident of eight years, relayed a similar story: A Ferguson officer once pulled him over and said he was looking for a suspect with dreadlocks.

"And I got a box cut," he said, pointing to his dyed-blond 'do.

It's not just blacks complaining. Tom Steigerwald, 31, a military brat who moved to Ferguson in 1994, recalled being smacked in the head by a Ferguson cop after an argument over a noise complaint.

"They've always been a**holes," he said. "They all got a power trip problem, a lot of them."

It's this kind of police behavior that creates rifts in the community, said Knox, a 33-year-old father of four.

"You're supposed to be happy when you see police. That's a protector. But no, not really," he said.

Many changing faces

Ferguson used to be a hiccup of a town hosting a train depot between St. Louis and St. Charles. It popped up in 1894 on a few deeded acres. In its first census, it boasted 1,000 residents.

A century will bring change to any city, but the times have frequently altered the face of Ferguson. It has been a commuter stop, a bedroom community for the automotive and airline industries and now, with 40 percent of its population younger than 25, a hub for students.

Another change? Twenty-five years ago, one in four residents was black. Today, the number is two of three.

Yet despite that shift, two things have remained static: Ferguson's police force and city council are overwhelmingly white.

The old depot is now an eatery and museum, next to a train trellis that sports banners promoting church fish fries and the local farmers market, one of the state's most popular.

On Saturdays, about 50 volunteers set up tents and tables, as area residents arrive to buy plump tomatoes and sweet corn from growers such as Earth Dance Farms down the street.

Also nearby is Pearce Neikirk's handsomely appointed real estate office with fiber art from local artists adorning the walls. Located between a bike shop and wine bar on a 10-block stretch of downtown known as CityWalk, the area features concert series, festivals and Food Truck Mondays.

West of CityWalk you'll find dozens of "century homes," architecturally distinct Colonial, Craftsman and Tudor Revival structures with sweeping roofs, gables and expansive porches. Residents mail-ordered them from Sears and Montgomery Ward during the early 1900s

"This is the kind of stuff that makes the community really strong. It makes it attractive," Neikirk said.

But be clear: While this part of Ferguson has a diverse mix of residents traversing its streets, its historic buildings and well-kept landscaping are a contrast from the strip malls and $500-a-month apartments along West Florissant.

Aside from broken windows at a liquor store and brake shop and a few other acts of vandalism, this side of town has remained relatively unscathed during the protests, perhaps because of the downtown police station. Or maybe because it's a mile from where Michael Brown lost his life.

Whatever the reason, the residents along West Florissant yearn for a return to the normalcy that is still day-to-day life on the other side of town. They may get it. Thursday's and Friday's protests were some of the most peaceful yet.

Some black residents, though, are skeptical it can stay that way, especially if Darren Wilson isn't indicted.

"If this police officer don't get no kind of charge," said the nurse, Pendelton, shaking her head at the potentiality, "they think it's chaos now?"