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Protesters, Police Clash in Ferguson, Missouri

  • VOA News

Protesters and police clashed overnight in the central U.S. town of Ferguson, Missouri, amid tensions linked to the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer.

Police fired stun grenades and tear gas at crowds on the streets of Ferguson, which had descended into chaos following peaceful protests. Firebombs and bottles were thrown in the direction of heavily armored police.

Rapper Nelly joined the march Monday night, hours before police said they came under heavy gunfire and arrested 31 people during another night of racially charged protests.

Nelly, a native of the St. Louis area near Ferguson, wore a t-shirt printed with #MikeBrown as he marched the streets with protesters who carried bullhorns and signs with messages such as "Stop Killing Us''.

The violence has captured headlines around the world, raising questions
about the state of U.S. race relations nearly six years after Americans elected their first black president.

Curfew imposed

An overnight curfew has been imposed and the National Guard, has been deployed in the St. Louis suburb of 21,000 people to stop looting and burning that have punctuated the protests. The troops arrived earlier Monday at the request of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, to bolster police forces following days of violent protests.

National Guard troops could be seen on the fringes of the gathering.

State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, told reporters early Tuesday that police came under heavy attack but did not fire a shot. He said two people were wounded by shots fired from within the crowd of protesters. Many demonstrators seemed to be defying orders from police to disperse, and Johnson said 31 people were arrested.

He noted that most of the protesters were peaceful, but that a small minority of people turned the demonstrations violent. He said officials will not let "criminals" define the community of Ferguson.

"But anyone who has been at these protests understands that there is a dangerous dynamic during the night. It allows a small number of violent agitators to hide in the crowd and then attempt to create chaos," Johnson said. "The catalyst can be bottles thrown, Molotov cocktails, and of course shots fired. Protesters are peaceful and respectful. Protesters don't clash with police. They don't throw Molotov cocktails. It is criminals who throw Molotov cocktails and fire shots that endangers lives and property."

The standoff occurred near the street where Michael Brown, 18, was fatally shot by a local police officer on August 9.

The latest clashes appeared to be less intense than those between police and demonstrators late Sunday, when police in body armor and gas masks, accompanied by armored vehicles, fired tear gas at protesters marching toward them. Police said at least two of the protesters were wounded by shots fired from within a crowd of demonstrators.

Independent autopsy results

The Brown family's attorney Daryl Parks speaks during a news conference to share preliminary results of a second autopsy done on 18-year-old Michael Brown, in St. Louis County, Missouri, Aug. 18, 2014.

The Brown family's attorney Daryl Parks speaks during a news conference to share preliminary results of a second autopsy done on 18-year-old Michael Brown, in St. Louis County, Missouri, Aug. 18, 2014.

An autopsy conducted on behalf of Brown's family showed he was shot at least six times, including twice in the head. The path of one bullet indicates he may have been lowering his head in surrender when the fatal shot hit, according to Brown family attorney Daryl Parks.

According to police, the officer involved in the shooting said he fired initially after Brown reached into his police car.

Parks told a news conference one bullet hit Brown in the very top of his head and another shattered his right eye.

"His head was in a downward position,'' Parks said. "Given those kind of facts, this officer should have been arrested,'' Parks said.

There were no signs of struggle with the officer and no gunshot residue on the body.

Darren Wilson, 28, the officer who shot Brown as the teenager was walking through a Ferguson residential neighborhood with a friend, was put on paid administrative leave and is in hiding.

Edward Magee, a spokesman for the St. Louis County prosecutor's office, said the case could be presented this week to a grand jury, which will decide whether Wilson will be indicted.

Holder to arrive Wednesday

On Monday, President Barack Obama said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will travel to Ferguson on Wednesday to get an update on the federal probe into the shooting death of the black teenager, 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Obama said Holder will meet with Department of Justice and FBI officials on the federal, independent civil rights investigation into the August 9 killing of Brown. Holder will also meet with community leaders on efforts to restore peace and calm to the town outside the city of St. Louis.

The president said while a vast majority of people are protesting peacefully, he urged the "small minority" of demonstrators to "not give into anger by looting or carrying guns or attacking police." Obama said such actions only serve to heighten tensions and chaos and undermine "rather than advance justice." He also said "there is no excuse for excessive force by police" or any action that denies the rights of those peacefully protesting.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday called on authorities in Ferguson to use restraint and uphold the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters

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