Hours earlier, Missouri's governor Jay Nixon put Highway Patrol
Captain Ron Johnson in charge of security in the town of Ferguson
after almost a week of clashes between protesters and police firing
tear gas and stun grenades. Dozens of people have been arrested amid
looting, shooting and vandalism.
In a tactical U-turn, Johnson, and a handful of black officers
without body armor walked among thousands of protesters filling the
streets of the mostly black St. Louis suburb, demanding justice for
the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
"We just want to be able to come and demonstrate together without
the fear of being shot. It's that simple," said 53-year-old
protester Cat Daniels, an Iraq veteran. "What you see tonight is
people coming together. When that kid was killed the hurt and the
pain was real."
Mark Hall, a 21-year-old student, said: "I'm so happy they left us
alone so we could prove that all we wanted was the opportunity to
exercise our rights peacefully ... a chance to be heard."
In the forecourt of a gas station burned out during this week's
rioting, a cowboy rode a horse and a group of children danced on
pavement covered in chalk drawings with the words: "Now the world
knows your name, RIP Mike."
Elsewhere drivers honked horns and waved signs in solidarity and one
group of demonstrators even took to the streets on a car-sized
replica of fictional steam train Thomas The Tank Engine.
"It's because of this young man right here," Johnson, who grew up in
the Ferguson area, told a CNN reporter, as the captain held up a
picture of Brown to shouts of approval from protesters around him.
"It's about the justice for everyone."
The protests have cast a spotlight on racial tensions in greater St.
Louis, where civil rights groups have complained in the past that
police racially profiled blacks, arrested a disproportionate number
of them and had racist hiring practices.
Two thirds of the town's population of 21,000 are black while 50 of
its 53-strong police force are white.
Brown's shooting galvanized a national moment of silence and rallies
in other U.S. cities.
In New York, a large crowd briefly overwhelmed a small police
presence in Union Square park, forcing officers to scramble to close
one of Manhattan's major thoroughfares. Local media showed a handful
of protesters being arrested.
In St. Louis, CNN footage showed hundreds of people peacefully
assembled in the shadow of the renowned Gateway Arch, Brown's mother
and other family members among them.
Seeking to defuse the situation, U.S. President Barack Obama had
called on police to respect peaceful demonstrations.
Nixon said Ferguson lately "has looked a little bit more like a war
zone, and that is unacceptable".
Police have pledged to do better but have also justified the tough
tactics, saying they have responded to the threat of violence during
[to top of second column]
"WHAT'S HIS NAME?"
Protesters have decried what they say is a lack of transparency from
police investigating Saturday's shooting, including the refusal to
name of the officer responsible.
On Thursday night in Ferguson, about 200 demonstrators chanted,
"What's his name? What's his name?'" at Johnson and the St. Louis
County police chief, Jon Belmar.
Police said they plan to release the officer's name on Friday,
according to CNN and Los Angeles Times reports.
Some critics have also called for St. Louis County Prosecuting
Attorney Bob McCullough, who was critical of Nixon's move, to be
taken off the case.
"He had no legal authority to do that," McCullough was quoted as
saying by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper. "For Nixon to never
talk to the commanders in the field and come in here and take this
action is disgraceful."
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement that police
had accepted an offer of technical assistance from the Justice
Department on crowd control and public safety "without relying on
unnecessarily extreme displays of force".
A law enforcement official told Reuters that Holder expressed his
personal condolences for their son's death in a phone call with
Brown's parents and promised the department would conduct a full,
independent civil rights investigation.
Early on Thursday, a member of the Anonymous hacker activist
collective tweeted the name of a person alleged to be the police
officer who shot Brown. But police and other Anonymous tweeters said
the activist had named the wrong person.
There is little clarity on what occurred during Saturday's incident.
Police have said that Brown struggled with the officer who shot and
killed him. The officer involved in the shooting was injured during
the incident and was treated in a hospital for swelling on the side
of his face, they said.
But some witnesses have said that Brown held up his hands and was
surrendering when he was shot several times in the head and chest.
(Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, David Bailey
in Minneapolis, Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Jeff Mason in
Edgartown, Mass., Curtis Skinner and Brendan McDermid in New York;
Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Louise Ireland)
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