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Missouri Governor Orders National Guard Withdrawal From Ferguson

  • VOA News

The governor of the central U.S. state of Missouri on Thursday ordered the withdrawal of the National Guard from a town rocked by nearly two weeks of protests following the August 9 shooting death of an unarmed black teen by a white policeman.

The national troops arrived in Ferguson on Monday to support police after violent clashes with protesters.

Despite peaceful daytime protests, police and certain demonstrators that officials called "instigators" exchanged firebombs and tear gas nightly at the peak of violence.

Governor Jay Nixon said in a written statement that he was removing the National Guard because the situation in Ferguson "has greatly improved with fewer incidents of outside instigators interfering with peaceful protestors, and fewer acts of violence."

Simmering situation

More than 150 people have been arrested in Ferguson since protests began, mainly for failing to disperse at the request of police. Police on Thursday reported only six arrests overnight, about 40 fewer than the night before.

Thursday in Washington, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Department of Justice "stands with the people of Ferguson."

Holder said his brief trip a day earlier to Missouri to speak with residents and police officials affected him like few events have in his time as head of the Justice Department.

"While I went to Ferguson to provide reassurance, in fact, they gave me hope. My commitment to them is that long after this tragic story no longer receives this level of attention, the Justice Department will continue to stand with Ferguson," he said.

Holder cites 'underlying tensions'

Holder said it is clear the shooting "brought to the surface underlying tensions" in the town where 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed.

"There is a history to these tensions and that history simmers in more communities than just Ferguson," he said.

Holder, who is black, mentioned his teenage son and his brother, a retired police officer, in an effort to connect with the Brown family and the law enforcement community. The Justice Department and local police officials are conducting parallel investigations into Brown's death.

Brown's shooting has raised allegations of institutionalized discrimination and excessive use of force by police.

Officials in Ferguson said one officer was suspended indefinitely after pointing his assault rifle at a protester earlier this week and threatening to kill that person.

Investigation begins

At the national level the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin Wednesday drawing attention to plans by the activist group called Anonymous for protests against Brown's death.

The bulletin said there is no indication the protests are expected to become violent. But it said recent protests in Ferguson have resulted in violence, property damage and arrests.

Also Wednesday, a grand jury investigating the fatal shooting began hearing evidence in the case. The grand jury will determine whether to charge officer Darren Wilson in the teen's death.

Wilson is on paid leave, with Brown's family and supporters calling for his arrest.

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