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Ferguson riots: Violence 'much worse' than on the night of Michael Brown shooting

The St Louis County Police Chief heard at least 150 gunshots fired

Lizzie Dearden
Tuesday 25 November 2014 10:14 GMT
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A photographer runs by a burning building during a demonstration on November 25, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.
A photographer runs by a burning building during a demonstration on November 25, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.

The violence erupting in Ferguson is "much worse" than the night Michael Brown was killed, according to the head of police.

Riot police fired smoke, tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters as hundreds took to the streets after a grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer who shot the unarmed 18-year-old dead.

Jon Belmar, the St Louis County Police Chief, said he personally heard about 150 gunshots and a dozen businesses were set on fire, with most burning to the ground.

At least 29 people have been arrested so far after reports of guns being seized, police cars being smashed and burned and Molotov cocktails, bricks and missiles being thrown at officers.

A police car burns in Ferguson, Missouri

Mr Belmar said the violence was “probably much worse than the worst night we ever had in August” after Mr Brown was killed.

“We have no loss of life, but I am disappointed the evening turned out this way,” he added.

"A lot of gunfire. I'm disappointed this evening.”

Mr Brown’s death on 9 August sparked days of civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, including looting and vandalism that drew a militarised response from riot police.

A police vehicle passes a business set ablaze by protestors in Ferguson

A state of emergency was declared last week as authorities feared the worst after the grand jury’s decision on whether to indict Officer Wilson.

The result was announced at 8pm local time on Monday night, with the panel of six white men, three white women, two black women and one black man finding that “no probable cause exists to file any charge” against the police officer.

Supporters of the 28-year-old officer characterised the shooting of Mr Brown on Ferguson’s Canfield Drive as an act of self-defence and he is believed to have testified personally to that effect in front of the grand jury, saying Mr Brown assaulted him.

Yet other witnesses insisted Mr Brown had his hands raised in surrender when the fatal shots were fired and the number of bullets that hit him was excessive.

Ferguson’s population is predominantly black, but the ranks of its police department are almost exclusively white.

The shooting set off a national debate on the attitude of law enforcement to the black community, and particularly on the multiple shootings of young, black men by police officers.

President Barack Obama had personally appealed for calm after the grand jury decision.

“[Healing] won’t be done by smashing car windows, it won’t be done by using this as an excuse for damaging property and certainly it won’t be done by hurting anybody,” he said.

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