Militia reinforcements contain damage in Ferguson

  • AP, Ferguson, Missouri
  • Updated: Nov 26, 2014 21:22 IST

State militia reinforcements helped contain the latest protests in Ferguson, preventing a second night of the chaos after a grand jury decided not to indict the white police officer who killed an unarmed black 18-year-old in a case that has highlighted long-simmering tensions between blacks and police.

Demonstrators returned Tuesday to the riot-scarred streets of the St. Louis suburb. But with hundreds of additional troops standing watch over neighborhoods and businesses, the protests had far less destructive power than the previous night. However, officers still used some tear gas and pepper spray, and demonstrators set a squad car on fire and broke windows at City Hall.

The shooting also has given rise to a national protest movement, with thousands in U.S. cities rallying behind the refrain "hands up, don't shoot," and drawing attention to other police killings. As the tension in Ferguson eased somewhat, officer Darren Wilson broke his long public silence, insisting on national television that he could not have done anything differently in the confrontation.

As the tension in Ferguson eased somewhat, officer Darren Wilson broke his long public silence, insisting on national television that he could not have done anything differently in the confrontation with Michael Brown.

The decision announced Monday night means Wilson faces no state criminal charges in the Aug. 9 shooting in Ferguson, which reignited debates over relations between police and minority communities, even in cities far from Ferguson.

The toll from Monday's protests - 12 commercial buildings burned to the ground, plus eight other blazes and a dozen vehicles torched - prompted Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to send a large contingent of extra National Guard state militia troops.

The governor ordered the initial force of 700 to be increased to 2,200 in hopes that their presence would help local law enforcement keep order.
"Lives and property must be protected," Nixon said. "This community deserves to have peace."

Guard units protected the Ferguson Police Department and left crowd control, arrests and use of tear gas to local officers. In one commercial area Wednesday morning, a soldier was stationed at every few storefronts, and some were on rooftops.

Forty-five people were arrested, most for failure to disperse. Outside police headquarters, one woman was taken into custody after protesters hurled what appeared to be smoke bombs, flares and frozen water bottles at a line of officers. Several other protesters were arrested after defying police instructions to get out of the street or out of the way of police vehicles.

Protesters threw rocks, tent poles, and bottles - some containing urine - at officers. As the crowd dispersed early Wednesday, some threw rocks through the windows of a muffler shop and a used-car dealership near a painted mural that read "Peace for Ferguson."

Some streets that had been overrun the previous night were deserted, except for the occasional police cruiser or National Guard vehicle. Some Guard crews monitored empty parking lots.

Large demonstrations were held across the U.S. for a second day. Hundreds of Seattle high school students walked out of classes, and several hundred people marched down a Cleveland freeway ramp to block rush-hour traffic. In New York, thousands of people marched for a second night in Manhattan, gathering in Union Square before splitting into several smaller groups, chanting "No justice, No peace" and blocking traffic.

Other events weren't as calm. In Oakland, California, a crowd of protesters smashed windows at car dealership, restaurants and convenience stores. A rally that drew thousands in Minneapolis took a turn when a car struck a protester and drove through a pack of others. And in Portland, Oregon, police used pepper spray and made arrests after about 300 people disrupted bus and light rail traffic by walking across a Willamette River bridge.

During an interview with ABC News, Wilson said he has a clean conscience because "I know I did my job right."

Wilson, 28, had been with the Ferguson police force for less than three years before the Aug. 9 shooting. He told ABC that Brown's shooting was the first time he had fired his gun on the job.

Asked whether the encounter would have unfolded the same way if Brown had been white, Wilson said yes.

Wilson said in his grand jury testimony that he feared for his life during his confrontation with Brown, which he blamed on the big teenager, saying the theft suspect reached through his driver's side window, hit him in the face, called him a "pussy" and tried grabbing his gun. Wilson then got off a shot that went through Brown's hand, the only bullet that hit Brown at close range.

Wilson told ABC he felt like it was his duty to chase Brown after the confrontation at his police vehicle. When asked about witness accounts that Brown at one point turned toward Wilson and put his hands up, he responded "that would be incorrect." Brown fell to the ground about 153 feet (46 meters) from Wilson's vehicle, fatally wounded by the last of the seven bullets that struck his body.

Public attention to the killing has frequently focused on the fact that Brown was unarmed. But whether or not Brown had a weapon makes little difference under Missouri law, which says police can act with deadly force when they believe it is necessary to arrest a person who may "endanger life or inflict serious physical injury."

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