News / USA

Racial Tensions Remain High in Missouri

Racial Tensions High Over Police Shooting of African American Youthi
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Chris Simkins
August 13, 2014 7:47 PM
Racial tensions remain high in a suburb outside Saint Louis, Missouri days after an unarmed black teenager was shot to death, allegedly by a white police officer. Civil rights leaders and President Barack Obama are calling for calm. As VOA’s Chris Simkins reports, federal authorities are investigating other recent altercations between African Americans and police.
Chris Simkins

Racial tensions remain high in a suburb outside Saint Louis, Missouri days after an unarmed black teenager was shot to death, allegedly by a white police officer.  Civil rights leaders and President Barack Obama are calling for calm.  Federal authorities are investigating other recent altercations between African Americans and police.

Police used tear gas to break up angry protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, Tuesday.

The predominantly African American suburb outside Saint Louis has been a hotbed of racial tension since Saturday, when 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer.  Witnesses said Brown was unarmed.

His mother Lesley McSpadden wants answers.

"My son did not cause this, somebody just did this to him," she said.

Demonstrations over his death turned violent as stores were looted and buildings burned.  President Obama called Brown's death heartbreaking and asked the community to honor the young man through reflection and understanding. 

Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders also called for peace.

"To become violent in Michael Brown's name is to betray the gentle giant that he was.  Don't be so angry you that you distort the image of who his mother and father told us he was," he said.

Ferguson's Police Chief Thomas Jackson has not released the name of the officer who shot Brown because of safety concerns.

The police force is predominately white and witnesses said the officer was too.

Chief Jackson said the circumstances of the shooting were still under investigation but officers were trying to reduce crime in the community.

"There's been a lot of crime.  What we've done recently with the apartment complex is we're working with them to reduce crime and to help solve crime," he said.

The FBI has launched a civil rights investigation into Brown's death, the latest incident involving police accused of using excessive force against African Americans.  

In New York, prosecutors are investigating the case of Eric Garner, who died after being arrested.  This video shows an officer putting a chokehold on Garner, a tactic forbidden by police regulations.    

"Yes, as defined in the department's patrol guide that would appear to have been a chokehold," said Police Commissioner William Bratton.

Legal analysts say federal prosecutors could bring civil rights charges against the police officers.  Meanwhile, more protests in New York and Missouri are planned to demand justice in both cases.

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