Michael Brown shooting: Ferguson 'state of emergency' declared after protests descend into violence
Public anger flared again on Friday when police issued a statement saying the 18-year-old had been a suspect in a 'strong-arm' robbery at a local convenience store
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, is being published in January 2014.
Sunday 17 August 2014
The Governor of Missouri has declared a state of emergency in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson, after protests over the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager descended into violence once more.
Governor Jay Nixon ordered a curfew to run from midnight to 5am beginning Saturday. “This is a test,” he told reporters, acknowledging that “the eyes of the world” were trained on Ferguson following the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown on 9 August. “We cannot allow the ill will of the few to undermine the good will of the many,” Nixon said.
Tensions had eased on Thursday when Nixon turned over responsibility for security on the streets of the city from the local police to the state Highway Patrol, after four straight nights of clashes between largely peaceful demonstrators and officers in riot gear firing tear gas and rubber bullets. But on Friday public anger flared again when police issued a statement saying Brown had been a suspect in a “strong-arm” robbery at a local convenience store at the time of his death.
Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson later admitted at a news conference that the white officer who shot and killed Brown, whom he named as Darren Wilson, was not aware the teenager was a suspect, and had in fact approached Brown because “he was walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic.” Wilson's identity had been withheld for almost a week after the shooting despite widespread calls for transparency, which led to the unrest.
As President Barack Obama asked the US Justice Department and FBI to investigate Brown's death independently, the teenager's family appealed for calm in the community, which is approximately two-thirds black, but patrolled by an overwhelmingly white local police force. The protests remained peaceful until around midnight on Friday, when a crowd reportedly broke into the shop that Brown allegedly robbed on the day he was killed.
Community activists tried in vain to stop the looting as several other local shops were targeted, car windows broken and a bus stop smashed. Captain Ron Johnson, the commander of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said rocks and other objects had been hurled at police, who once again wore riot gear and responded by firing tear gas into the crowd. No arrests were made.
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