Violence erupted Monday night in Ferguson, with protests elsewhere in the country, after a grand jury declined to indict a police officer for fatally shooting an African American teenager.
Rioters set several buildings on fire in Ferguson, smashed police cars and looted local stores in a night of chaos ignoring appeals for peace.
Protests also took place in New York city, Washington DC — outside the White House, Chicago, Philadelphia and elsewhere in the country, but they were largely peaceful.
Parents of the teen who was killed, Michael Brown, appealed for peace saying disappointment over jury’s decision should be harnessed to bring “incredible change, positive change”.
Acknowledging many were “deeply disappointed, even angry”, President Barack Obama said, “I join Michael’s parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully.”
The grand jury’s decision did not come as a surprise. Leaks leading up to Monday night announcement indicated officer Darren Wilson was unlikely to be indicted.
And protestors and news crews had begun arriving in Ferguson in anticipation. Local authorities also beefed enforcement arrangements, but they were clearly insufficient.
The jury of nine whites and three blacks ruled that Wilson, who has not been seen in public since the shooting on August 9, shot Brown in self-defense, as claimed by him.
Announcing the verdict at packed news conference county prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch described the incident in great details — two altercations, and the shooting.
He said many witness accounts reported in news reports immediately after the incident were later found to be inconsistent and contradictory.
But Brown family lawyer Benjamin Crump argued in interviews on television that prosecution didn’t want an indictment, and didn’t do a good job of presenting the case against the officer.
It was rare for a grand jury to not return an indictment. Statistics do back that claim generally, but grand juries have been typically reluctant to indict law enforcement officials.