Tuesday 4 August 2015

War on the streets: Police 'under heavy gunfire' as violence flares following shooting of unarmed black Missouri teen

Published 19/08/2014 | 11:34

Police officers point their weapons at demonstrators protesting against the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014.  REUTERS/Joshua Lott
Police officers point their weapons at demonstrators protesting against the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. REUTERS/Joshua Lott
Police officers react to the movements of a rowdy group of demonstrators during protests in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown near Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Police officers stand on top of an armored truck to monitor the movements of a rowdy group of demonstrators during protests in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown near Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Members of a rowdy group of demonstrators stand with their hands up as they are lit by a police spotlight on West Florissant during protests in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown near Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
A protester dons a gas mask on West Florissant during protests in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown near Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Members of a rowdy group of demonstrators stand with a road sign on West Florissant during protests in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown near Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Members of a rowdy group of demonstrators drag a portable toilet onto the roadway during protests in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown near Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Demonstrators listen to rapper Nelly during a peaceful march in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown, near Ferguson, Missouri, August 18, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Police point out protesters Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. The Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by police has touched off rancorous protests in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb where police have used riot gear and tear gas. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes)
Markese Mull lies in the street during a protest Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by police Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon called in the National Guard Monday after police again used tear gas to quell protesters in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Police detain a protester Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. The Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by police has touched off rancorous protests in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb where police have used riot gear and tear gas. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes)
Elle Lucier, center, is comforted by Shawn Walton, left, and Sheola Farquharson as she pauses while fighting back tears during a speech at a rally in response to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Protestors autograph a sketch of Michael Brown during a protest, Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Atlanta. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in downtown Atlanta to protest the shooting death of Brown, an unarmed man who was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A protester watches the confrontation between the police and demonstrators Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. The Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by police has touched off rancorous protests in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb where police have used riot gear and tear gas. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes)
A member of the Missouri Highway Patrol is seen atop an armored personnel carrier Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. The Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by police has touched off rancorous protests in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb where police have used riot gear and tear gas. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
A protester raises his arms following a clash with police Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. The Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by police has touched off rancorous protests in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb where police have used riot gear and tear gas. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Christian Gooden)
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, near Ferguson, Missouri, August 18, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Demonstrators stand in the middle of West Florissant holding a street sign, with their hands up, towards the police during ongoing protests in reaction to the shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, August 18, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
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, August 18, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
A fire, lit by a demonstrator, burns outside of a restaurant on West Florissant during ongoing protests in reaction to the shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
A citizen peacekeeper tries to keep protesters back as police advance Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. The Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer has touched off rancorous protests in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb where police have used riot gear and tear gas. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Christian Gooden)
Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson (center R) greets rapper Nelly on West Florissant during ongoing protests in reaction to the shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, August 18, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

A night that seemed set at first to be more peaceful than those that had come before it suddenly flared up once again into anger, chaos and confrontation on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, as police fired tear gas and stun grenades into the air sending protesters fleeing for cover and gasping for breath.

Now in its second week, the protests triggered by the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer, Darren Wilson, show no sign of abating even after attempts by officials to use multiple tactics to stop the violence.

While Governor Jay Nixon had ordered in the National Guard on Monday he had also lifted a nighttime curfew in hopes of easing tensions.

Captain Ron Johnson, the State Trooper appointed by Governor Nixon to restore order to the community, spent the first part of the evening walking along the stretch of West Florissant Avenue, the strip that has been the main flashpoint of the nightly eruptions, talking with protesters about his hopes that the worst might be over. “In my gut, in my soul, I feel that tonight is going to be better,” he commented.

By the end of the night Capt Johnson said that two people had been shot, 31 protesters arrested and that police had come under 'heavy gunfire" during the course of the night.

"These criminal acts came from a tiny minority of law-breakers," he said. "It is criminals who throw Molotov cocktails, fire shots and endanger lives. These are not acts of protesters but acts of violence."

Demonstrators face off with police after tear gas was fired at protesters reacting to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri
Demonstrators face off with police after tear gas was fired at protesters reacting to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri
Police officers react at the scene of a looting at the Dellwood Market after protests against the shooting of Michael Brown turned violent near Ferguson, Missouri
Protesters react to the effects of tear gas which was fired at demonstrators reacting to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri
Demonstrators face off with police after tear gas was fired at protesters reacting to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri
Protesters demonstrating against the shooting death of Michael Brown park in the streets in Ferguson, Missouri
Police officers stand guard at a gas station after protests against the shooting of Michael Brown turned violent near Ferguson, Missouri
Protesters gesture as they stand in a street in defiance of a midnight curfew meant to stem ongoing demonstrations in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 17, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Sam's Meat Market & More employee Steve Sumad rubs his neck as he surveys damage caused by looters the night before in Ferguson, Missouri, August 16, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Protestors march and hold their fists aloft during ongoing demonstrations in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 16, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Protesters assist a man who was overcome by smoke as police clear a street after the passing of a midnight curfew meant to stem ongoing demonstrations in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 17, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
A protester reaches down to throw back a smoke canister as police clear a street after the passing of a midnight curfew meant to stem ongoing demonstrations in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 17, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Protesters gesture as they stand in a street in defiance of a midnight curfew meant to stem ongoing demonstrations in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 17, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Protesters gesture as they stand in the street in defiance of a midnight curfew meant to stem ongoing demonstrations in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 17, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Protesters gesture as they stand in the street in defiance of a midnight curfew meant to stem ongoing demonstrations in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 17, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Protesters gesture as they stand in a street in defiance of a midnight curfew meant to stem ongoing demonstrations in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 17, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Protesters gesture as they stand in a street in defiance of a midnight curfew meant to stem ongoing demonstrations in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 17, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Protesters gesture as they stand in a street in defiance of a midnight curfew meant to stem ongoing demonstrations in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 17, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Protesters gesture as they stand in a street in defiance of a midnight curfew meant to stem ongoing demonstrations in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 17, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Protesters gesture as they stand in a street in defiance of a midnight curfew meant to stem ongoing demonstrations in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 17, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
A protester holds a sign aloft in front of police officers before a midnight curfew meant to stem ongoing demonstrations in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown takes effect in Ferguson, Missouri August 16, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

"Not a single bullet was fired by officers despite coming under heavy attack. Our officers came under heavy gunfire," he added.

Earlier, the atmosphere was edgy as a line of police officers in gas masks and riot gear had formed a line at one end of the protest area. Soon, a second phalanx of police, now backed up by armoured vehicles topped with machine gun nests had also gathered at the other end of the street. Sound cannons released ear-piercing tones to discourage assembly. Sandwiched in between were hundreds and demonstrators and journalists.

While some degree of calm appeared to be holding at one end with the help of several community organisers and church pastors mixing with the crowds and urging restraint, at the other end, just off the street where the teenager, Michael Brown, was killed last Saturday, a far angrier knot of demonstrators had gathered, taunting police, ripping out a street and ignoring orders to disperse.

With a far smaller group of reporters at the same junction as witnesses, the stand-off abruptly dissolved into fresh chaos.  First some of the protesters scattered, as if spooked by something, which later was said to have been gunfire. Moments later, the police began firing tear gas, while protesters began hurling objects back, ranging from water bottles to at least one Molotov cocktail. The gas in the area spread fast, sparing only the few wearing gas masks.

Later a police officer ordered a CNN broadcast crew - and soon all other remaining reporters - to clear what had been a media ‘safe’ area outside the McDonald's. “There has been a gunshot victim, please leave,” one officer shouted. Meanwhile, riot police weaved through the air pointing automatic weapons indiscriminately at protesters and reporters.

Seemingly not involved directly in the street confrontations were the National Guard troops, who held back mostly to protect the police command centre in a nearby shopping centre.

Earlier, President Barack Obama had said during a White House press conference that he had urged Governor Nixon strictly to limit the involvement of the National Guard to avoid further inflaming community resentment.

President Obama, who said he had directed the Attorney General, Eric Holder, to visit Ferguson personally on Wednesday, urged all sides to work for calm. “While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving in to that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police, only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos,” he said.  “It undermines, rather than advancing, justice.”

The fresh protests followed the release by lawyers for Mr Brown’s family of the preliminary results of a privately conducted autopsy of the victim suggesting he had been shot six times. The trajectory of one bullet, from the top of the head and out one eye, was seen by some to corroborate claims that the young man had been trying to surrender when hit by the fatal shot.  A wound to an arm may also fit with his having had his arms raised at the time, though the private pathologists said they could not say for certain.  Two more autopsies are pending from St Louis and also federal authorities.

The family meanwhile called for the arrest of the officer responsible for the shooting, who has been identified as 26-year-old Darren Wilson. The same call was echoed by many of those participating in the protests on Monday night.

(Independent.co.uk)

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