African Diaspora African-Americans

Vigils held across US for shot teenager

By Staff Reporter

FERGUSON, MO - AUGUST 14: Gwen Stewart joins other demonstrators along West Florissant Avenue to protest the shooting death of Michael Brown on August 14, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Violent protests have erupted along West Florissant in Ferguson each of the last four nights as demonstrators express outrage over the shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer on August 9. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)©Getty

A semblance of calm had returned to Ferguson, Missouri late on Thursday after four nights of violent protests, while vigils were held across the US in honour of the black teenager killed by local police at the weekend.

The apparent easing of tensions followed a decision by Jay Nixon, the Missouri state governor, to call in the state Highway Patrol to take over security, stripping the local police involved in the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown of their role.

The de-escalation came as thousands of people across the US held candlelit vigils to mark the death of teenager who witnesses said was shot by a white police officer after he and a friend ignored an order to move out of the middle of the street. Mr Brown, who was unarmed, was said to have held up his hands and shouted: “Don’t shoot” before the officer opened fire.

The authorities have said the shots were fired during a scuffle with the teenage high school graduate.

The change in policing tactics had an immediate effect with state troopers seen walking side-by-side with thousands of protesters in Ferguson, a suburb of St Louis, in stark contrast to the violent clashes with heavily armed officers on previous nights.

Earlier in the day, President Barack Obama spoke publicly for the first time about the shooting and appealed for calm. He said there was “no excuse” for violence either against the police or by officers against peaceful demonstrators.

Ferguson is a town with a population of 21,000 that is nearly 70 per cent black but patrolled by the St Louis County Police department that is predominantly white.

FERGUSON, MO - AUGUST 14: Capt. Ronald Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, who was appointed by the governor to take control of security operations in the city of Ferguson, walks among demonstrators gathered along West Florissant Avenue on August 14, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Violent protests have erupted along West Florissant in Ferguson each of the last four nights as demonstrators express outrage over the shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer on August 9.The governor appointed Johnson after receiving numerous complaints about the excessive show and use of force by the police against protestors and the news media covering the demonstrations. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) today called for the demilitarization of the police. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)©Getty

Patrol captain Ron Johnson

After ordering the local police off the streets, Mr Nixon appointed Highway Patrol captain Ron Johnson to head up the operation, a black officer who grew up near Ferguson.

Capt Johnson was part of the march on Thursday night and vowed to talk to demonstrators throughout the night. “We’re going to have some conversations with them and get an understanding of what is going on,” he said.

President Obama said he had asked investigators from the Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate.

-FT

 

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