Ferguson: state of emergency declared as protests continue

Aug 11, 2015

Dozens arrested as armed vigilantes known as 'oath keepers' add to tensions on street

Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)

Authorities have declared a state of emergency as protests marking the anniversary of Michael Brown's death continue.

St Louis county executive Steve Stenger said the order was made "in light of last night's violence and unrest in the city of Ferguson, and the potential for harm to persons and property".

Protesters took to the streets on Sunday in honour of teenager Brown, who was killed by a white police officer last August. His death triggered nationwide protests in the US and a debate about race and policing.

Tensions remain high in Ferguson after another black teenager was seriously wounded in a gun battle with police, the BBC reports.

Tyrone Harris is in critical condition in hospital and has been charged with assaulting a police officer after he allegedly opened fire on their vehicle on Sunday night.

The 18-year old's father has described the police account as a "bunch of lies" and insisted his son had been unarmed and was "running for his life".

More than 100 people have been arrested since Monday as protesters staged acts of peaceful disobedience, including blocking traffic and holding a sit-in outside the main courthouse in St Louis.

Police and protesters clashed again throughout the night, with demonstrators throwing water bottles and rocks and officers responding with mace and pepper spray.

Adding to the tension are a group of "oath keepers" – white militia members in military fatigues armed with assault rifles, who say they are there to protect protesters' constitutional rights.

Many are reportedly "refusing to answer questions from protesters and reporters on the scene about who they are, why they are there and who is paying them", reports The Guardian.

Despite members of the militia telling protesters "we are on your side", demonstrators are angry at their presence.

"Protesters wondering aloud if cops would allow them to wander down the street unabated with assault rifles," tweeted Stephen Deere, reporter for the St Louis Post-Dispatch.

Ferguson: young black man shot by police at anniversary protest 

10 August

A man has been shot and seriously injured by police during largely peaceful protests to mark the first anniversary of the killing of US teenager Michael Brown.

Police said the young black man shot at plainclothes officers in an unmarked SUV, who then returned fire, the BBC reports. He is now in a "critical, unstable" condition. None of the officers involved were injured.

St Louis county police chief Jon Belmar described the incident as a "tragedy" but said there were a "small group of people out there intent on making sure we don’t have peace that prevails".The officers involved in the shooting – who were not wearing body cameras at the time – have been placed on administrative leave.

The identity of the victim has not been confirmed by police, but the St Louis Post-Dispatch has named him as 18-year old Tyrone Harris. His father told the newspaper his son went to the same high school as Michael Brown and the pair had been close friends.

The shooting happened after hundreds of people took part in silent vigils and marches yesterday in honour of Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was killed by a white police officer last year in Ferguson, Missouri.

His death – and the grand jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson – sparked nationwide protests, a national debate on race and justice and gave momentum to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Yesterday's protests were largely peaceful until riot police and armoured vehicles were deployed in response to reports of looting and protesters blocking traffic, The Guardian reports. Clashes soon erupted between demonstrators and police, who used tear gas to disperse crowds.

In graphic footage filmed by prominent Ferguson protester Tony Rice, the young man shot by police officers is seen handcuffed and lying face down on the road covered in blood, while officers stand over him with their guns drawn. Rice is heard shouting at the officers, telling them to give the victim medical attention.

“Hey, he bleeding!" Rice says in the video. "Get him some help, man. Please get him some help! … He's bleeding out, man, you see it. He's breathing, man. Please get him some help!"

Rice is then detained by a police officer who shouts: "This is crime scene! Back up, you are under arrest."

Ferguson: two police officers shot during race protest

12 March 

Two police officers were shot overnight during a protest in Ferguson, Missouri, hours after the local police chief Tom Jackson resigned.

One officer was hit in the face and another in the shoulder, but both are conscious and expected to survive, according to police sources speaking to CNN.

The two officers were standing in front of Ferguson Police Department when they were targeted at around 12.30am local time (5.30am GMT), but the shots did not come from the crowd of 60 to 70 protesters, said police.

Chris King, editorial director of the St Louis American, said the protest had been "winding down" when the shots were fired. "It's not like it was escalating tension that resulted in gunfire," he said.

One protester told the BBC he saw an officer "covered in blood" and that other officers were carrying and dragging him, leaving a trail of blood on the ground.

Another witness told CNN: "All of a sudden, I heard at least four or five shots ring out. It took me at least 30 seconds of watching before I realised there was an officer down. We are not there to shoot cops, we don't like violence. So we did what anybody would do – we ran away."

The US town has seen repeated protests since Darren Wilson, a white police officer, shot Michael Brown, an 18-year-old, unarmed black man, in August last year. A grand jury decided not to charge Wilson in November. However, last week, the Department of Justice published a scathing report showing that Ferguson Police Department routinely and systematically used racially discriminatory policing tactics.

A number of senior figures have since stepped down, including that of Ferguson police chief Jackson yesterday. Protesters had gathered last night to celebrate his resignation and demand more changes from authorities. Some demonstrators called for the police department to be disbanded and for Mayor James Knowles to resign as well.

Ferguson: protests spread as officer defends shooting

26 November

Rallies were held across America last night in protest against Monday's decision to clear a white police officer of killing unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Demonstrations in New York, Seattle, Chicago and Cleveland were mostly peaceful, although riots broke out in Oakland, California.

Hundreds of people blocked traffic in Cleveland, while protesters in New York briefly shut down the Brooklyn Bridge.

Ferguson suffered a second night of rioting, with 2,200 National Guard troops deployed to stop further unrest.

Protesters set alight a police vehicle, while officers used smoke bombs and tear gas to clear the streets. At one point the police, with dogs and a helicopter, declared that anyone standing in the street would be subject to arrest.

Nevertheless, police said it was a better night than Monday, which was described by The Guardian as "America's worst night of race-related riots in a generation".

Meanwhile, Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot dead 18-year-old Brown in the St Louis suburb on 9 August, has said he has a "clean conscience".

Speaking out for the first time to ABC News, Wilson said there was nothing he could have done differently.

"The reason I have a clean conscience is because I know I did my job right," he said. Wilson denied witness statements claiming that Brown had his hands up when he shot him and insisted race had played no part in the shooting.

He described Brown as a "powerful man" and said he had felt like a "five-year-old holding on to Hulk Hogan".

On Monday night at least 60 people were arrested, 14 people were injured and a dead body was found yesterday morning in a car close to where Brown died. Millions of dollars of damage was caused.

This morning, Jon Belmar, St Louis police chief, said the police made 44 arrests last night, and also seized a molotov cocktail and two guns. "Generally it was a much better night," he said.

Ferguson, Missouri: 'worst night of riots' after officer cleared

26 November

Violent clashes have broken out in Ferguson, Missouri after a US grand jury decided not to charge the police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

Hundreds of people gathered outside Ferguson Police Department, chanting and throwing signs and other objects at police officers lined up in riot gear.

Cars and buildings were later set alight, windows of buildings were smashed and several businesses reported looting.

Police used tear gas and sound cannons to disperse crowds in the region, as protesters threw bottles and rocks at officers. Gunshots could also be heard along the streets of Ferguson, reports the New York Times. Flights into St Louis Lambert International Airport were even suspended as a safety precaution.

The BBC describes it as the "worst night of rioting yet in Ferguson", while in other US cities, protesters gathered in mostly peaceful demonstrations.

Darren Wilson, a white police officer, shot dead 18-year-old Brown in the St Louis suburb on 9 August, sparking nights of rioting with protesters outraged by what they called a pattern of police brutality against young black men.

Brown's family claims the 18-year-old was trying to surrender when he was shot, while Wilson's supporters say the officer opened fire in self-defence, fearing for his life. Witnesses disagreed on whether or not Brown's hands were up when he was shot 12 times, with the final shot hitting him in the top of his head.

The decision of the grand jury, comprising nine white and three black members, was announced last night at a news conference packed with reporters from around the world.

St Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch explained that Wilson could have faced charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to first-degree murder – but no probable cause could be found to file any charge against him.

Brown's family said they were "profoundly disappointed" but called for calm. "While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change," they said in a statement.

US President Barack Obama echoed their words in an unusual late-night appearance, urging Americans to accept the decision was "the grand jury's to make''.

Ferguson, Missouri: is city on the brink of war?

19 November

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri are predicting "widespread civil disobedience" when the grand jury verdict on the police killing of an unarmed black teenager is announced.

Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown in August and the jury is expected to decide whether or not a murder charge can be brought against him.

Brown's death sparked widespread protests in Ferguson as racial tensions soared and demonstrators accused the town's predominantly white police force of indiscriminately targeting black people.

There are fears that such scenes are likely to be repeated once the verdict is released in the coming days and businesses across Ferguson have begun boarding up their shop fronts in preparation. The expectation among most protesters is that Wilson will not be charged, The Guardian reports.

However, demonstrators, currently picketing the St Louis grand jury, say protests will remain non-violent as long as the police response is proportionate.

Alarmingly, gun sales in the area have soared, particularly among first time buyers who say they want to be able to protect themselves from protesters. "Everyone else has one," one customer told Fox news. "I figured I'd better [get one] too."

Police spokesman Brian Schellman said "it would be naive" to say that the increase was not in anticipation of the grand jury verdict.

Separately, members of the Klu Klux Klan have been handing out fliers in Ferguson promising to use "lethal force" against protesters, the Washington Post reports.

In anticipation of violence, Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency on Monday and National Guard troops have been put on alert, ready to be deployed to the city. 

"This is America. People have the right to express views and grievances, but they do not have the right to put fellow citizens and property at risk,” Nixon said last week. "Violence will not be tolerated.”

The move has been condemned by protesters and Brown's family who accuse the authorities of and scaremongering and "preparing for war".


St Louis police shooting video stokes outrage

21 August 

St Louis police have released video footage of the moment 25-year-old Kajieme Powell was shot dead by officers a few miles away from ongoing protests about the death of another black man, Michael Brown.

The video shows Powell, who has severe learning difficulties, holding a kitchen knife and shouting at police: "Shoot me! Shoot me!"

Officers open fire after Powell ignores their command to stop, shooting him a total of 9 times. They continued to shoot even after he collapsed on the ground.

"Powell looks sick more than he looks dangerous", yet police still open fire, shooting to kill, writes Vox's Ezra Klein. "It does not seem like it should be so easy to take a life."

The video also appears to contradict a previous police statement on the shooting which said that Powell was just three feet away and running at police. The footage shows that Powell is much further away and walking towards them.

St Louis police department said they released the video in the spirit of transparency and insisted that officers had followed protocol, but social media users quickly attacked their approach.

The video has further increased racial tensions in an area that has been plagued by violent clashes following the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, who was unarmed, 12 days ago.

But not everyone agreed that the police were at fault in the Powell shooting. Antonio French, a councillor who has been involved in the Ferguson protests, said the officers' actions may have been justified and told the public not to link the shooting to Brown's death, the Los Angeles Times reports.

"There's a difference between an armed man yelling, 'Kill me, Kill me,' and an unarmed teenager reportedly with his hands up in the air," he said.

Klein also says: "It is easy to forget that police get scared. It is easy not to ask yourself what you might have done if you had a gun and a man came at you with a knife." 

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