Protesters dispersing from Ferguson

2014-11-26 08:11
A picture of Michael Brown in the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St Louis. (File: AP)

A picture of Michael Brown in the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St Louis. (File: AP)

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10:04 - Ferguson - Police have dispersed protesters from the streets of Ferguson after a second night of demonstrations following a grand jury decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Tuesday was far calmer than the previous night, though officers did have to extinguish a police car that was set on fire and vandals managed to damage some additional storefronts.

More than 40 arrests were made, but the protests did not approach the chaos of the previous night, which saw arson, looting and rioting in the streets.

Members of the National Guard - which tripled its numbers in the Ferguson region Tuesday - were far more visible and remained posted throughout the city after the protests ended.

09:11 - St Louis - When Sean Jackson became a father, he says he knew he needed to teach his son how to interact with police so as to avoid arrest - or worse.

Such is the life of a black man in Ferguson, Missouri, reports AFP.

African Americans in Ferguson are furious over police brutality, racism and what they say is daily profiling.

"Listen. This is what most white people don't understand," says the 45-year-old Jackson, standing outside the burnt-out ruins of a store after the worst night of violence the St Louis suburb has seen since Michael Brown, 18, was killed in August.

"Any black man driving through Ferguson is a nervous man because he's worried about the police pulling him over.

"You're nervous about getting killed or getting locked up, or a ticket - you're hoping for a ticket. When every day you're living your life and you have to be nervous - it's not fun."

‘Yes sir, no sir’

Local residents have staged protests ever since Brown was shot dead. On Monday, they degenerated into looting and arson after a grand jury cleared officer Darren Wilson of any wrongdoing.

Jackson says he has been harassed by police multiple times. He taught his son, now 25, to keep put his hands up, and say "yes sir, no sir" if he is ever stopped.

"We do have to teach our sons how to deal with the police so they don't get killed," he said, describing St Louis as one of the most prejudiced cities in the United States.

"People here get so in tune with that we don't even notice it - people from outside are hollering about it. Man, you know what? Time for change."

'Could have been me'

The US Bureau of Justice Statistics says of the 2 931 "arrest-related" homicides from 2003 to 2009, almost all were men and more than half aged 25 to 44.

Blacks suffer disproportionately. Blacks made up 32% of the casualties, yet just 13% of the population.

According to a Justice Department report, blacks and Hispanics are three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than whites, and four times as likely to experience the use of force in encounters with police.

One in three African-American males can expect to spend time in prison, while black high school students are far more likely to be arrested than white classmates, the Centre for American Progress think tank has noted.

Men here say they know they could have been in Brown's place on 9 August.

"I understand it as a black male, to know that could have been me shot," said Darrell Alexander, 56, a retired registered nurse, touring the riot-hit area.

"Justice is still not being served so the young people are mad, and they have every right to be. This was blatantly racism, the whole situation."

‘White privileged America can’t understand’

Alexander is a supporter of Copwatch, an organisation that researches complaints against police officers in a bid to promote public safety and ensure officers remain accountable.

Two summers ago, he says he was pulled over by St Louis County police at midnight as he drove into his affluent neighbourhood, his hair in dreads, on a bogus insurance call, which was later thrown out in court.

"It was because it was 0:00, I didn't look like I lived in that neighborhood... I didn't look the part so I was ticketed and these are the kind of unnecessary things that we have to go through," Alexander said.

"These are the types of things that white privileged America can't understand because they don't see it. It doesn't happen to them."

'Still hurting'

MZ Tay, a nurse wearing a "no justice, no peace" T-shirt who was so upset she was nearly in tears, warned that Ferguson was in for a bumpy ride in the coming days.

"This is not going to fly. This is going to get so much worse before it gets better. I can see other places getting burned down," she told AFP.

"This is just the beginning because everyone is still hurting. Everyone is just so in uproar, how is it we still live in slavery days."

She also said she now kept a camera in her car to record the number of times she has been pulled over in her expensive vehicle.

Ferguson's police department is overwhelmingly white, even though its population over two decades has grown to become two-thirds African-American.

Terrence Williams, 23, spent Tuesday picking up trash from the side of the road. He said he had been out volunteering since 07:00.

A lawyer for the family of Michael Brown said on Tuesday that a grand jury's failure to indict the police officer who shot the unarmed black teenager was "completely unfair" and said the criminal justice system was "broken."

"The process should be indicted," attorney Benjamin Crump said at a press conference a day after the grand jury, an investigative panel, decided not to charge police officer Darren Wilson in the August 9 killing in Ferguson, Missouri.

In his first public comments since the shooting, Wilson, 28, told ABC News that he was sorry for Brown's death but has a clear conscience.

In an interview aired late on Tuesday, Wilson, said he feared for his life during the incident with Brown, the broadcaster reported online.

After an initial scuffle apparently with Wilson still in his car, the officer pursued on foot before Brown, 18, turned and charged.

A series of shots

"I fired a series of shots and paused," Wilson said. "I yelled, 'Stop, get on the ground,' giving him the opportunity to stop, and he ignored the command."

Wilson said he fired the final, final shots within 3 metres as the onrushing Brown appeared intent on tackling the officer. Wilson said there was "no question" he would have acted the same if Brown had been were white.

"The reason I have a clean conscience is because I know I did my job right," Wilson said.

The St Louis County prosecutor's late on Monday announcement of the decision set off a night of protests and rioting, which left dozens of businesses looted and burned. There were no deaths.

Demonstrators gathered again after nightfall on Tuesday in Ferguson, and protests were held or planned in cities nationwide including New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles.

Crump accused the prosecutor of favouring the police and said a special prosecutor should have been appointed.

"We object publicly and as loudly as we can," he said.

Crump proposed that reforms in the wake of the Ferguson unrest should require all police officers in the United States wear video cameras to increase transparency, especially in cases like the Brown shooting.

Months of tense demonstrations

Following the grand jury decision, Brown's stepfather, Louis Head, called on protesters gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department headquarters to "burn this bitch down." Crump called the comments "raw emotion ... completely inappropriate."

No Brown relatives spoke at the press conference. The family had called for calm before and immediately after the decision.

The shooting was followed by protests and isolated looting in August, provoking a heavy-handed, widely criticised police response. Months of tense but peaceful demonstrations followed while the grand jury investigated.

African-Americans and others in the community called for Wilson to face prosecution for murder or manslaughter. Wilson supporters said he acted in self-defence when accosted by Brown.

The 12-member grand jury found "no probable cause" to indict Wilson after hearing 70 hours of live testimony and reviewing many more hours of tape recordings and other evidence, St Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch said.

Brown had stolen a box of cigars from a convenience store, minutes before being stopped by Wilson. Brown reached into the open window of Wilson's squad car, and Wilson's gun was fired twice inside the car, McCulloch said. Brown's blood was found in the car, apparently from a wound on the thumb.

Serious injuries

Brown walked away from the car. Wilson pursued on foot, and there was credible testimony and corroborating evidence that Brown then turned and twice charged Wilson, who fired 10 rounds, McCulloch said.

Within minutes of the announcement unoccupied police vehicles were attacked, bottles and rocks flew, and tear gas choked the streets.

"What I've seen tonight is probably much worse than the worst night we ever had in August," St Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said. "I didn't foresee an evening like this - I will be honest with you."

He said no officers fired weapons or suffered serious injuries.

"I'm very uplifted by the fact that we don't have any loss of life, because that's the main goal here," Belmar said.

The Ferguson Fire Department reported blazes in at least 25 structures, and county police made 61 arrests, including one arrest for arson, 29 for second-degree burglary and other for trespassing and unlawful assembly.

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles called it "deeply troubling" that the Missouri National Guard was not deployed quickly enough to protect businesses in the town of 20,000, and implored Governor Jay Nixon to make sure resources are in place to prevent further violence.

Speaking on immigration policy to an audience in Chicago, US President Barack Obama said the Ferguson situation had sparked "necessary conversations" about race and police practices.

"The frustrations that we've seen are not just about a particular incident," he said. "They have deep roots in many communities of color, ... rooted in realities that have existed in this country for a long time."

There was "no excuse" for violence, called for prosecution of criminal acts and voiced "no sympathy at all for destroying your own communities," Obama said. Reforms come not from destruction but "because people vote, because people organise, because people mobilise," he said.

Read more on:    michael brown  |  barack obama  |  us

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