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Thursday 18 September 2014

National Guard leaving Ferguson

Published 22/08/2014 | 05:21

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Michael Washington holds his hands in the air during an Oklahoma City in response to the shooting of Michael Brown (AP)

The National Guard began withdrawing from Ferguson, where there has been unrest since a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black 18-year-old nearly two weeks ago.

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Since the guard's arrival on Monday, protests in the small section of town that had been the centre of nightly trouble have begun to subside.

The quietest night was overnight Wednesday, when police arrested only a handful of people in the protest zone.

M issouri Governor Jay Nixon ordered the guard to withdraw, saying: "The last two nights have been really good. I feel we're making progress."

But he noted that a state of emergency remained in effect in Ferguson.

About 100 people gathered last night, walking in laps near the spot where Michael Brown was shot. Some were in organised groups, such as clergy members.

More signs reflected calls by protesters to remove the white prosecutor from the case.

Demonstrations began after the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown, and the authorities have arrested at least 163 people in the protest area.

While the majority of those arrested are Missourians, just seven live in Ferguson, a St Louis suburb. The vast majority, 128 people, were charged with failure to disperse. Twenty-one face burglary-related charges.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, in charge of securing Ferguson, said just six people were arrested at protests on Wednesday, compared to 47 the previous night, providing hope among law enforcement leaders that tensions may be beginning to ease.

Meanwhile yesterday, St Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch reiterated he has no intentions of removing himself from the case.

He urged Mr Nixon to once and for all decide if he will act on calls for Mr McCulloch's to be ousted.

Some question Mr McCulloch's ability to be unbiased since his father, mother and other relatives worked for St Louis police. His father was killed while responding to a call involving a black suspect.

Mr Nixon said this week he is not asking Mr McCulloch to step down. But a McCulloch aide, Ed Magee, said the governor "didn't take an actual position one way or the other".

Mr McCulloch called for a definitive decision. He said in a statement that Nixon must "end this distraction" or risk delay in resolution of the investigation.

A grand jury has started considering evidence to decide whether the officer who shot Mr Brown, Darren Wilson, should be charged. The process could take weeks.

Another fatal police-involved shooting happened this week in St Louis.

St Louis police released video showing officers killing a knife-wielding man. The video shows the man saying, "Kill me now" as he moved toward two officers. The officers fired six shots each, killing 25-year-old Kajieme Powell.

The St Louis shooting briefly spurred a gathering of about 150 people who chanted, "Hands up, don't shoot," a chant that has become common among protesters in Ferguson.

St Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said he wanted to move quickly to make public as much information as possible.

"I think the lessons learned from Ferguson were so crystal clear," he said.

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