Police order Ferguson protestors off the streets

Police order Ferguson protestors off the streets

Police officers have ordered protesters off the streets of Ferguson after what had been several hours of largely peaceful demonstrations.

Protesters had gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department for a second night following a grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson over the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Despite several arrests, there was a different feel from the previous night, which saw arson, looting and rioting.

But several hours after nightfall, a group of people broke off from the crowd and marched down from the police department. A police car was torched outside city hall. Police quickly used a fire extinguisher to douse the flames and released tear gas.

Officers soon took to loudspeakers to tell protesters to leave the streets or face arrest.

The protesters had returned to the riot-scarred streets of Ferguson a day after crowds looted businesses and set fire to buildings in a night of rage against a grand jury’s decision not to indict the white police officer who killed an unarmed black 18-year-old.

Hundreds of additional National Guard troops were sent to the St Louis suburb to help local authorities keep order.

Lawyers for Mr Brown’s family criticised the grand jury’s decision as rigged but appealed for peace.

Mr Wilson, in his first public comments, defended his actions, insisting on national television that he could not have done anything differently in the confrontation with Mr Brown.

The grand jury decision means Mr Wilson faces no state criminal charges over the August 9 shooting, which reignited debates over relations between police and minority communities, even in cities far from Ferguson.

In the aftermath of Monday’s violence, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon more than tripled the number of National Guard soldiers sent to Ferguson, ordering the initial force of 700 to be increased to 2,200 in hopes that their presence would help local law enforcement keep order.

“Lives and property must be protected,” he said. “This community deserves to have peace.”

Police order Ferguson protestors off the streets

About 50 protesters converged on a barricade guarded by 30 Guard members. The group chanted “Whose streets, our streets,” ”This is what democracy looks like“ and ”Hands up don’t shoot,“ a slogan that has become a rallying cry for protests over police killings.

Outside police headquarters in Ferguson, one woman was taken into custody after protesters threw what appeared to be smoke bombs, flares and frozen water bottles at a line of officers.

Two other protesters wearing masks were arrested after defying police instructions to get out of the street.

Other demonstrations were held across the US for a second day. Hundreds of Seattle high school students walked out of classes, and several hundred people marched down a Cleveland freeway ramp to block rush-hour traffic.

In New York, thousands of people marched for a second night in Manhattan, gathering in Union Square before splitting into several smaller groups, chanting “No justice, No peace.” ”

Mr Wilson, in an interview with ABC News, said he has a clean conscience because “I know I did my job right”.

He has been on leave since the shooting and had remained out of the public eye.

The officer said in his jury testimony he feared for his life during his confrontation with Mr Brown, which he blamed on the teenager, saying he reached through his driver’s side window, hit him in the face, called him a “pussy” and tried grabbing his gun.

Mr Wilson then got off a shot that went through Mr Brown’s hand, the only bullet that hit the teenager at close range. He told ABC he felt it was his duty to chase Mr Brown after the confrontation at his police vehicle.

When asked about witness accounts that Mr Brown at one point turned toward Mr Wilson and put his hands up, he responded “that would be incorrect”.

Mr Brown fell to the ground about 153 feet from Mr Wilson’s vehicle, fatally wounded by the last of the seven bullets that struck his body.

Police order Ferguson protestors off the streets

Public attention to the killing has frequently focused on the fact that Mr Brown was unarmed. But whether or not he had a weapon makes little difference under Missouri law, which says police can act with deadly force when they believe it is necessary to arrest a person who may “endanger life or inflict serious physical injury”.

The protests that followed the grand jury decision quickly became chaotic, with protesters looting and setting fire to businesses and vehicles, including at least two police cars. Officers eventually lobbed tear gas from inside armoured vehicles to disperse crowds.

President Barack Obama deplored the destructive acts, saying they are criminal and those responsible should be prosecuted.

But America’s first black president said he understands that many people are upset by the grand jury decision.

“The frustrations that we’ve seen are not about a particular incident. They have deep roots in many communities of colour who have a sense that our laws are not always being enforced uniformly or fairly,” Mr Obama said.

White House officials are still considering whether Mr Obama should travel to Ferguson, weighing the importance of the moment with the risk of inflaming tensions.

There were 61 arrests in Ferguson overnight and 21 in St Louis. At least 18 people were injured, including someone who was shot and was recovering at a hospital.

In Ferguson, 12 commercial buildings were burned down and other businesses were looted during the first night of protests, authorities said.

Lawyers for Mr Brown’s family stressed that those setting fires and engaging in violence were not on the youngster’s side.

But they said the grand jury process was rigged from the start to clear the white officer. They criticised everything from the types of evidence St Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch presented to the jury to the way it was presented and the timing of the decision.

Lawyer Anthony Gray suggested Mr McCulloch presented some testimony, including from witnesses who did not see the shooting, to discredit the process.

The Brown family lawyers said they hope an ongoing federal civil rights investigation leads to charges.

But federal investigations of police misconduct face a steep legal standard, requiring proof that an officer wilfully violated a victim’s civil rights. That is a high bar especially considering the wide latitude given to police officers in using deadly force.

The Justice Department has also launched a broad probe into the Ferguson Police Department, looking for patterns of discrimination.

Regardless of the outcome of the federal investigations, Mr Brown’s family also could file a wrongful-death civil lawsuit against Mr Wilson.

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