NFL match hit by Ferguson clashes

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Published: Monday 1st December 2014 by The News Editor

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Clashes have broken out between police and protesters at a top-flight American football game over the Ferguson shooting.

Five St Louis Rams players stood with their arms raised in a “hands up” gesture ahead of their NFL home match against Oakland Raiders, in an own apparent show of solidarity for the Ferguson protesters.

After the gesture by Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Jared Cook and Chris Givens, dozens of protesters marched near the Edward Jones Dome, chanting: “Ram fans, join the movement.”

Scuffles broke out after police in riot gear showed up.

The trouble came after the police officer who killed an unarmed black 18-year-old in the St Louis suburb resigned from his job with Ferguson Police Department.

Darren Wilson, 28, had been on administrative leave since August 9, when he shot and killed Michael Brown. A grand jury decided last Monday not to indict Mr Wilson, sparking days of violent protests in Ferguson and other cities across the US.

Mr Wilson wrote in his resignation letter that his “continued employment may put the residents and police officers of the city of Ferguson at risk, which is a circumstance I cannot allow”.

His lawyer, Neil Bruntrager, said Mr Wilson decided to step aside after police Chief Tom Jackson told him about the alleged threats.

“The information we had was that there would be actions targeting the Ferguson (police) department or buildings in Ferguson related to the police department,” Mr Bruntrager said. He said Mr Wilson, who had worked for the department for less than three years, and the city were already discussing an exit strategy, acknowledging that staying on as an officer there would be impossible.

Ferguson’s mayor said yesterday that Mr Wilson did not receive any severance package. He will receive no further pay or benefits, and he and the city have severed their ties, Mayor James Knowles told reporters a day after Mr Wilson tendered his resignation, effective immediately.

Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Mr Brown’s family, said the officer’s resignation was not a surprise.

“It was always believed that the police officer would do what was in his best interest, both personally and professionally,” Mr Crump said. “We didn’t believe that he would be able to be effective for the Ferguson community nor the Ferguson Police Department because of the tragic circumstances that claimed the life of Michael Brown Jr.”

Mr Crump said the family is still considering civil litigation such as a wrongful death lawsuit, “but don’t let that get confused with the fact that they really wanted the killer of their child to be held accountable”.

On Saturday night, more than 100 protesters gathered near Ferguson police headquarters, where they were outnumbered by officers. Two people were arrested. Another protester burned an American flag. By midnight, only about two dozen protesters remained. Many seemed unfazed by Wilson’s resignation. Several merely shrugged their shoulders when asked what they thought.

Mr Wilson shot Mr Brown in the middle of a Ferguson street after the two scuffled inside Mr Wilson’s police vehicle. Mr Brown’s body was left for more than four hours as police investigated and angry onlookers gathered.

In the days after the shooting, tense and sometimes violent protests occurred in and around Ferguson, a predominantly black community patrolled by a mostly white police force. Missouri governor Jay Nixon called in the National Guard to help.

Some witnesses have said Mr Brown had his hands up when Mr Wilson shot him. The officer told the grand jury that he feared for his life when Mr Brown hit him and reached for his gun.

The US Justice Department is conducting a civil rights investigation into the shooting and a separate investigation of Ferguson police department practices.

President Barack Obama will discuss the situation in Ferguson later today with his cabinet, civil rights leaders, law enforcement officials and others.

The White House said the meeting will focus on his administration’s review of federal programmes that provide military-style equipment to law enforcement agencies.

The White House said the president will also meet young civil rights leaders to discuss the challenges posed by “mistrust between law enforcement and communities of colour”. He will then meet government and law enforcement officials, as well as other community leaders, to discuss how to strengthen neighbourhoods.

Published: Monday 1st December 2014 by The News Editor

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