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Thursday 18 September 2014

Knife-wielding man shot dead by police as tension in Ferguson reaches boiling point

Scott Malone

Published 20/08/2014 | 02:30

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Demonstrators stand in the middle of West Florissant as they react to tear gas fired by police during ongoing protests in reaction to the shooting of teenager Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri. Reuters
Demonstrators stand in the middle of West Florissant as they react to tear gas fired by police during ongoing protests in reaction to the shooting of teenager Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri. Reuters
Missouri National Guard soldiers stand by at a police command post in Ferguson, Missouri.  Reuters
Missouri National Guard soldiers stand by at a police command post in Ferguson, Missouri. Reuters
Police officers point their weapons at demonstrators protesting against the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Reuters
Police officers point their weapons at demonstrators protesting against the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Reuters

As darkness fell on Ferguson, Missouri, the crowd of several hundred people protesting the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teen quickly and radically changed.

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Police say 31 people have been injured. Yesterday police shot and killed a knife-wielding man four miles from the site of Mr Brown's killing.

Local police said witnesses reported the man behaving erratically, and that the man had come at two officers with the knife.

"The suspect turned toward officers, pulled out knife in an overhand grip, told officers to 'shoot me now, kill me now,'" said St Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson.

Police have yet to release arrests records, leaving open the question of who is to blame for outbursts of late-night violenceand looting. Some have made no efforts to hide their faces,others have charged into stores bare-chested, with shirtswrapped over their faces and baseball caps pulled over theirbrows.

At times, the most violent element hide in alleys, emergingto throw rocks or bottles before disappearing again. Others arecaught and taken into custody.

Police have struggled to contain violence that erupted inFerguson after a white police officer killed an unarmed blackteenager, Michael Brown, 10 days ago.

Civil rights leaders and police - at odds over much of whathas occurred in this small, mostly black St. Louis suburb -agree on at least hypothesis: Many of the perpetrators are notlocal residents.

"I've said that many a criminal element that have beencoming through Ferguson are not from this area. Tonight, some ofthose arrested came from as far away as New York andCalifornia," State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson told a news conference early yesterday.

Whoever is behind the violence, local and civil rightsleaders seemed unable again on Monday to fully control the mostviolent elements in the crowd.

As the Missouri Highway Patrol, which has been put in chargeof security on site, rolled out noise cannons intended to drivedemonstrators back, a handful of area preachers appealed to the crowd to heed their orders.

"God told us in the Bible to obey the law of the land," said Elder Jimmy Burchfield, of St. Louis City, who had come out in hopes of helping to calm the situation. "When we make a mistake and we have to be arrested, we have to be arrested."

While the majority of the crowd heeded the appeal, a smallergroup assembled a quarter mile away, near the site of aburned-out gas station that was destroyed in the first night of rioting more than a week ago, hurling rocks at police andbreaking glass.

As the crowd grew angrier, the police lobbed tear gas and flash grenades, provoking an angry response that included atleast one small gasoline bomb.

Johnson accused a handful of violent actors in the crowd of coming to Ferguson at night to destroy infrastructure and fight with police, then returning home to towns nearby.

"They can go home and their gas stations and their stores are open. Here we have one Quick Trip that burned down and the other one nearby is closed," said Johnson, an African-Americanwho grew up in the area and who took over security efforts in the mostly white local force.

Johnson looks harried but the prospect of a peaceful night's sleep is a long way off.

Irish Independent

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