US: Troops exit, orderly protests unfold in Missouri

Protests unfolded peacefully Thursday in a Missouri town, and National Guard troops withdrew, 12 days after the fatal police shooting of a black teenager that led to racially-charged unrest.

world Updated: Aug 22, 2014 11:45 IST

Protests unfolded peacefully Thursday in a Missouri town, and National Guard troops withdrew, 12 days after the fatal police shooting of a black teenager that led to racially-charged unrest.

No serious incidents were reported as several hundred demonstrators defied stifling heat and humidity in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson to demand justice for 18-year-old, college-bound student Michael Brown. It was the second straight night of generally orderly protest, after previous marches descended into riots, looting and tense stand-offs with police who fired tear gas to disperse the crowds.

"Until we get justice, people are going to continue to march for Mike Brown, and that's just how it should be," said Stephanie Taylor, 28, a nursing assistant who has been coming out almost nightly.

On the residential street when white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Brown at least six times in broad daylight on August 9, hundreds of red roses were carefully arranged in a row. Families took turns snapping pictures of themselves by a makeshift memorial fashioned out of a traffic cone, a St Louis Cardinals baseball jersey, tall candles and shiny helium balloons.

Teddy bears and a stuffed gorilla toy wrapped the base of a lamp post. A crucifix leaned against a tree, next to a handmade sign that warned of "killer cops" in the area. Rap music echoed from a parking lot.

Police reported five arrests, compared to six on Wednesday and 47 on Tuesday when crowds balked at orders to disperse. Thursday's calm followed a visit to Ferguson by US Attorney General Eric Holder, who personally assured Brown's parents that a full and thorough federal civil rights inquiry into their son's death would be undertaken.

Missouri governor Jay Nixon earlier Thursday ordered the National Guard - which deployed in Ferguson on Monday after a night of fierce clashes between police and protesters - to withdraw, saying they were no longer needed. The Guard's role was limited to protecting a police command center, allowing law enforcement personnel to free up resources for crowd control. "As we continue to see improvement, I have ordered the Missouri National Guard to begin a systematic process of withdrawing from the city of Ferguson," Nixon said.

Brown's funeral is set for Monday, while a grand jury is considering evidence into the shooting amid growing calls for Wilson - unseen since the shooting - to stand trial for murder.

New details on policeman
Some witnesses have said that Brown - a suspect in the liquor-store robbery of a box of cigars just minutes earlier - was shot while he had his hands up in surrender. Police sources and others allege that he had tussled with Wilson and tried to grab his gun.

New details emerged Thursday about Wilson, 28, a police officer for four years in Ferguson - a town of 21,000 that has a majority African-American population but an overwhelmingly white police department.

ABC News, quoting a source close to Wilson who did not want to be identified, reported that the officer sustained "a serious facial injury" in the incident. Wilson, 28, who prior to Brown's shooting had never faced disciplinary action, is not without his supporters and as recently as last February was given a letter of commendation by the Ferguson police chief for his bravery in a separate incident.

An online Support Darren Wilson campaign has drawn more than 50,000 "likes" on Facebook and $130,000 in donations, ahead of a weekend rally in nearby St Louis. There was no sign of life Thursday at Wilson's ranch-style home in another, mainly white St Louis suburb Thursday. The curtains were drawn and a sign on a neighbor's door asked reporters to stop knocking and go away.

First Published: Aug 22, 2014 10:35 IST