Ferguson hopes for calmer night

Published: Thursday 27th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Business owners and residents boarded up windows and cleared away debris as Ferguson sought a return to normal after two nights of unrest.

The trouble was sparked by a grand jury decision’s not to indict a police officer over the shooting death of an unarmed black 18-year-old.

Protesters continued to hold scattered demonstrations, including a group that rushed into City Hall in St Louis, the city neighbouring Ferguson, screaming “Shame, shame.”

Police locked down the building and called in more than a hundred extra officers. Three people were arrested.

About 200 demonstrators marched through central St Louis and held a mock trial of Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown during an August 9 struggle.

The racially charged case has stoked passions throughout the US, triggering debates over the relationship between black communities and law enforcement.

Since the grand jury’s decision was announced on Monday night, protesters in cities throughout the country have rallied behind the refrain “hands up, don’t shoot,” and drawn attention to other police killings.

In New York City yesterday, Mr Brown’s parents joined the families of two other black men who were unarmed when they died at the hands of police.

The families joined arms with civil rights leader Al Sharpton and prayed for justice at the Harlem headquarters of Mr Sharpton’s organisation, the National Action Network.

As the tension in Ferguson eased somewhat, Mr Wilson broke his long public silence, insisting on national television that he could not have done anything differently in the August 9 confrontation.

The officer testified during the grand jury hearings that he felt threatened and that Mr Brown tried to grab his gun, something the Brown family has said they do not believe.

An influx of guardsmen – reserve troops that state governors can call up during emergencies – helped make Tuesday night much calmer, although there still were 58 arrests, and demonstrators in Ferguson set fire to a squad car and broke windows at City Hall.

Many residents hoped that the relative calm of the daylight hours would last through the night and into today’s Thanksgiving holiday.

About a dozen people painted over boarded-up windows on businesses in Ferguson’s historic centre, where National Guardsmen were stationed every few feet and some looked down from rooftops.

“This is my Ferguson, you know?” said Kari Hobbs, 28, as she watched 17-year-old Molly Rogers paint “Love Will Win” in bright pink on a board that covered a smashed window at Cathy’s Kitchen, a restaurant not far from the Ferguson Police Department.

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

The 28-year-old officer had been with the Ferguson police force for less than three years before the shooting. He told ABC that Mr Brown’s shooting was the first time he fired his gun on the job.

Asked whether the encounter would have unfolded the same way if Mr Brown had been white, Mr Wilson said yes.

The grand jury’s decision means Wilson will not face state charges over Mr Brown’s death.

Lawyers for the Brown family said the grand jury process was rigged from the start to clear Mr Wilson.

One of them, Anthony Gray suggested that prosecutor Bob McCulloch presented certain testimony to discredit the process, including from witnesses who did not see the shooting.

The lawyers vowed to pursue federal charges. The US Justice Department is conducting a civil rights investigation into the shooting, but federal investigations of police misconduct face a high legal standard to justify a prosecution.

Mr Brown’s parents made public calls for peace in the run-up to Monday’s announcement, and on Tuesday, their representatives again stressed that the people setting fires were not on Michael Brown’s side.

Videos that were widely circulated on Tuesday showed the teenager’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, standing on top of a car and breaking down as the announcement of the grand jury decision blares over the stereo.

Her husband, Mr Brown’s stepfather, comforts her, then begins angrily yelling “Burn this bitch down!” to a crowd gathered around him.

Asked about the comment at a news conference, family lawyer Benjamin Crump said the reaction was “raw emotion. Not appropriate at all. Completely inappropriate.”

Published: Thursday 27th November 2014 by The News Editor

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