FERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - Small crowds
staged largely peaceful protests late on Wednesday over the fatal
shooting of a black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson,
Missouri, the calmest night since riots erupted over the racially
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder met the parents of 18-year-old
Michael Brown and promised his department would hold a thorough
investigation into a case that has reignited a debate over the
justice system's treatment of African Americans.
"I am the Attorney General of the United States, but I am also a
black man ... I can remember being stopped on the New Jersey
turnpike on two occasions and accused of speeding. Pulled over,"
Holder told a community meeting in the St Louis suburb, according to
A grand jury also began hearing evidence in the case on Wednesday,
though protesters stepped up their demands that the local criminal
investigation be turned over to a special prosecutor.
A few gunshots rang out overnight, at least one officer was hit by a
bottle and police said early on Thursday six people had been
arrested, much fewer than the scores detained in the past nights of
riots and looting.
"We saw a different crowd that came out tonight. We didn't have as
many agitators and, as I said, criminals in the crowd," said
Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, a black officer
appointed to oversee security last week.
"The trend is good. Crowds were smaller, they were calm and
orderly," he told journalists.
An hour before sundown on Wednesday, groups of dozens of protesters
began marching peacefully along a main thoroughfare that has been
the scene of nightly demonstrations and sporadic violence, chanting:
"Hands up, don't shoot."
A thunderstorm struck just after dark, scattering demonstrators,
including an angry crowd that had surrounded a couple carrying a
Members of the clergy were seen in the crowd, helping direct the
march and acting as intermediaries between police and demonstrators.
One black female minister in a long white robe calmed a woman who
was screaming defiantly, then ushered her along the route.
Holder, the first African-American to take on the role of the top
U.S. law enforcement official, met students and community leaders in
the St. Louis suburb.
The Justice Department has launched an investigation to whether
federal prosecutors can bring criminal charges against Darren
Wilson, the police officer involved in the Aug. 9 shooting.
OF THE WORLD
The turmoil has cast the St. Louis suburb of 21,000 people into the
international spotlight as a symbol of often troubled U.S. race
Ferguson is predominantly black, but its police force, political
leadership and public education administration are dominated by
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch said his office
could continue presenting evidence to the separate grand jury
investigation through mid-October.
"On one side, people are saying: 'You're rushing to justice,' and on
the other side, they're saying: 'You're dragging this thing out,'"
he told a news conference. "We're going to present this as
expeditiously as possible, but we are not going to present it in a
Outside McCulloch's office, scores of protesters led by clergy
members called for his removal from the case. They also demanded the
appointment of a special prosecutor, an expedited grand jury
proceeding and the immediate arrest of the p9olice officer, Wilson,
who has been placed on leave.
McCulloch's father was a police officer killed in the line of duty
by a black man.
"There is no trust in Bob McCulloch," said Clinton Stancil, senior
pastor of Wayman AME Church in St. Louis. "We are seeking justice.
We don't think he can be fair."
McCulloch has repeatedly promised a fair and impartial
Accounts of Brown's slaying differ. According to police, Wilson
reported that Brown reached into the policeman's cruiser when Wilson
approached him on the street, then grabbed for the officer's gun.
A companion of Brown said the teenager was initially shot after the
officer tried to grab him through the car window and again after
Brown stopped and put his hands in the air.
Hundreds of people have already been interviewed and federal medical
examiners have performed an independent autopsy, the third conducted
in the killing.
(Additional reporting by Lucas Jackson and Julia Edwards in
Washington; Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Peter Cooney,
Michael Perry and Andrew Heavens)