Ferguson officer resigned without severance – mayor

2014-12-01 10:24
Protestors display signs outside the White House in Washington, DC following the announcement that the white policeman who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, will not face charges. (File: AFP)

Protestors display signs outside the White House in Washington, DC following the announcement that the white policeman who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, will not face charges. (File: AFP)

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Ferguson - The white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, this summer, got no severance deal when he resigned from the force, the mayor of the St Louis suburb said on Sunday.

The officer, Darren Wilson, announced his resignation late on Saturday, saying he feared for his own safety and that of his fellow police officers after a grand jury decided not to indict him in the fatal 9 August shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

"There will be no severance or extension of benefits for Darren Wilson following his resignation," Mayor James Knowles told a news conference. Knowles also outlined new incentives to bring more African-Americans into the Ferguson police force.

Brown's death galvanised critics of the way police and the criminal justice system treat African-Americans and other minority groups. Protests in Ferguson have taken place for months and erupted into violence when the grand jury decided last Monday not to charge Wilson.

Human chain

The protests have spread around the country and over the past week, there have been demonstrations in more than 100 cities around the country, on public roadways, in shopping malls and government buildings.

On Sunday, demonstrators temporarily shut down part of the busy Interstate 395 highway that runs through Washington, DC, police said. The protest lasted less than an hour as people formed a human chain to block traffic in both directions.

Anger spilled onto the playing field when the NFL's St Louis Rams played Oakland at home on Sunday. Some of the Rams entered the stadium with their hands raised overhead, a show of solidarity with Brown, who some witnesses say had his hands in the air when Wilson fired the fatal shots.

About 40 or 50 protesters briefly blocked a street outside Edward Jones Dome in downtown St Louis after the game and later marched through the surrounding streets chanting "black lives matter."

Many Rams fans, mostly white men, applauded riot police as they followed the demonstrators. A handful of demonstrators were seen being taken into custody.

Long-standing grievances

Wilson, who said he was acting in self-defence and that his conscience is clear, had been on administrative leave and in seclusion since the incident.

Ferguson's mayor said he had not asked for Wilson's resignation, but although the officer had expressed an interest "in a future here", Knowles wanted the city to turn a page.

The mayor said his focus was on how to rebuild trust in the city, where the shooting exposed long-standing grievances about race relations both in Ferguson and across the country.

Veteran civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton preached on Sunday to a congregation of at least 2 500 worshippers at the St Louis church where Michael Brown's funeral was held in August. The dead teen's parents were among the congregation.

Potential risks

Wilson's departure was long anticipated because of the potential risks to his own safety and the deep rifts that have emerged in Ferguson between the mostly white police force and the majority black population.

Some critics now want the police chief to resign as well. During the news conference on Sunday, the chief, Tom Jackson, said he had no plans to resign. The mayor said no changes in the department's leadership were in the works.

President Barack Obama will meet on Monday with civil rights leaders, elected officials and law enforcement officials from around the country to discuss how communities and police can work together to build trust to strengthen neighbourhoods across the country, the White House said in a statement on Sunday.

He will also meet with cabinet members to discuss a review Obama ordered in August of federal programs that provide equipment to local law enforcement agencies, the White House said.

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