• Wednesday, November 26, 2014

New clashes erupt in Ferguson as Obama urges calm

BBC Online
Police detain a demonstrator during a protest against the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri August 18, 2014. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters on Monday after days of unrest sparked by the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white policeman.Photo: Reuters
Police detain a demonstrator during a protest against the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri August 18, 2014. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters on Monday after days of unrest sparked by the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white policeman.Photo: Reuters

US police say they have arrested 31 people during another night of angry protests in the town of Ferguson in the state of Missouri.

Unrest flared hours after President Obama called for calm following the fatal police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown on 9 August.

The US attorney general is due to visit Ferguson on Wednesday to meet federal officials investigating the killing.

The National Guard has been deployed to support police operations.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced the deployment on Monday, in addition to lifting a night-time curfew imposed on the weekend.

The killing of Brown by a white policeman in a street has inflamed racial tensions in the largely black community of Ferguson.

Officer Darren Wilson shot the teenager last week after reportedly stopping him for walking in the street.

'Violent agitators'

Police Captain Ron Johnson said officers were forced to use tear gas on Tuesday after they came under "heavy gunfire" and were attacked with petrol bombs and bottles.

He said two people were hit by gunfire from demonstrators, insisting that officers did not use their weapons.

Capt Johnson appealed to demonstrators to protest in the daytime to prevent a "tiny minority of law breakers" from deliberately sparking violence.

"Anyone who has been at these protests understands that there is a dangerous dynamic in the night: it allows a small number of violent agitators to hide in the crowd and then attempt to create chaos," he told journalists.

A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest against the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon lifted the curfew for the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Monday and began deploying National Guard troops to help quell days of rioting and protests spurred by the fatal shooting of the black unarmed teenager by a white policeman. Photo: Reuters
A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest against the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon lifted the curfew for the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Monday and began deploying National Guard troops to help quell days of rioting and protests spurred by the fatal shooting of the black unarmed teenager by a white policeman. Photo: Reuters

Those arrested include people from other states, including New York and California, Capt Johnson said. Correspondent say this suggests the protests are becoming more organised.

In an earlier statement, US Attorney General Eric Holder said he would "personally travel" to Ferguson on Wednesday to meet FBI investigators and prosecutors.

"I realise there is tremendous interest in the facts of the incident that led to Michael Brown's death, but I ask for the public patience as we conduct this investigation," Holder said.

He added that the investigation into the shooting of 18-year-old Brown was "a critical step in restoring trust between law enforcement and the community, not just in Ferguson, but beyond".

Protesters involved with a more vocal and confrontational group of demonstrators stand and gesture as tear gas is fired, at further protests in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown near Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. Photo: Reuters
Protesters involved with a more vocal and confrontational group of demonstrators stand and gesture as tear gas is fired, at further protests in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown near Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. Photo: Reuters

Separately, President Barack Obama said he understood the "passions and anger" provoked by the death of the teenager.

But he also stressed that giving into anger "by looting or carrying guns and even attacking the police only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos".

Obama said he recognised that in many communities in the US a "gulf of mistrust" existed between local residents and law enforcement.

"In too many communities, too many young men of colour are left behind and seen only as objects of fear," he said.

Earlier, a former New York pathologist hired by Brown's family performed an independent post-mortem examination.

Dr Michael Baden said he believed six bullets struck the teenager, two of which may have re-entered.

"All of the gunshot wounds could have been survivable, except the one at the top of the head," he said.

Dr Baden said there were no signs of a struggle, as abrasions around the teenager's face were likely from falling to the pavement after being shot.

He also believed Wilson did not shoot him at close range as there was no gunpowder residue on his body, suggesting the officer was more than 2ft (60cm) away.

Witnesses have said Brown was shot as he held his hands up in a position of surrender, while the police and supporters of Wilson have said he fired during a fight with Brown.

The officer who shot Brown, Darren Wilson, has been suspended with pay since the shooting. Brown's family have called for his arrest.

Another post-mortem on Brown will be conducted by the US justice department, in addition to examinations by Dr Baden and St Louis county officials.

Timeline of events

  •    
    9 Aug: Michael Brown is shot by police officer Darren Wilson after an altercation
  •     10 Aug: Unrest begins to brew after a candlelight vigil for Brown, with car windows smashed and stores looted
  •     11 Aug: FBI opens an investigation into the teenager's killing. Tensions escalate at night, with riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters
  •     15 Aug: Police release a video purporting to show Brown robbing a convenience store. The move further angers demonstrators and leads to new clashes with police
  •     16 Aug: Missouri declares a state of emergency and imposes a curfew in Ferguson
  •     17 Aug: Governor calls out National Guard to keep peace
  •     18 Aug: Independent post-mortem tests confirm Brown was shot six times, including twice in the head

Published: 10:56 am Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Last modified: 9:59 pm Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TAGS: US Barack Obama White House Missouri Ferguson National Guard

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