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. Photo by Reuters
US lawmakers have called for calm and a change in police
tactics in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, which has been
rocked by racially charged clashes and riots after a white
officer killed an unarmed black teenager 10 days ago.
The violence has captured headlines around the world, raising
questions about the state of US race relations nearly six
years after Americans elected their first black president.
Law enforcement has made various efforts to soothe angry
demonstrators, but police said they had come under heavy
gunfire overnight and arrested 31 people despite the
deployment of Missouri National Guard troops and the lifting
of a curfew to allow protesters to have more freedom to
"We overpoliced for a few days, and then we completely
underpoliced," US Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri
Democrat who was traveling to Ferguson on Tuesday (local
time), told cable channel MSNBC.
She said she was working with local leaders on ways to quell
the violence. Possible methods include screening for weapons
and moving protest areas away from the business district to
open green spaces.
Both she and US Representative Emanuel Cleaver, another
Missouri Democrat, said calm was needed to allow federal
investigators to evaluate the evidence.
"What's happening now is damaging, or interfering, with what
needs to be done," Cleaver told MSNBC.
On Monday, President Barack Obama said he told Missouri
Governor Jay Nixon that use of the National Guard should be
limited, and he also called for conciliation. Attorney
General Eric Holder plans to visit Ferguson on Wednesday.
Ferguson, a community of roughly 21,000 mostly black
residents just outside St. Louis, has a long history of
racial tension. Blacks have complained of police harassment
and under-representation in city leadership.
Tension boiled over 10 days ago after 18-year-old Michael
Brown was shot dead while walking with a friend down a
residential street on the afternoon of August. 9.
The police refused to immediately release the name of the
officer who killed Brown. They later identified him as
28-year-old Darren Wilson but and still have not provided
details about why he fired multiple rounds at Brown.
Both the US Department of Justice and the St. Louis County
Police Department are investigating the shooting. The county
prosecutor's office said it could start presenting evidence
to a grand jury on Wednesday to determine if Wilson will be
Since the killing, thousands of protesters have taken over
the site of the shooting and the nearby business district
each night, chanting anti-police slogans and carrying signs
calling for Wilson's arrest.
Some journalists covering the confrontations have been hit by
tear gas and arrested.
On Tuesday, the Vienna-based Organization for Security and
Co-operation in Europe, an intergovernmental security and
human rights organisation whose members include 57 countries
including the United States and Canada, criticized the
treatment of the journalists.
On Monday night, officials had hoped that the lifting of a
curfew imposed over the weekend would cool tensions and end
the looting and violence. Police also closed a roadway to
traffic to provide a path for marchers.
But police said some in the crowd hurled bottles, rocks and
petrol bombs at officers, who responded by firing gas-filled
canisters and a noise cannon to try to disperse the throng.
State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, who is overseeing
security in Ferguson, said officers had come under "heavy
gunfire" but did not return it. Riot police did confiscate
two guns and what looked like a petrol bomb from protesters.
Four officers were injured, he said.
Johnson separately told CNN that two people were shot within
the crowd, but not by police, and were taken to hospital.
There was no immediate word on their condition.
"This has to stop," said Johnson, an African-American who
grew up in the area. "I don't want anybody to get hurt. We
have to find a way to stop this."
The disturbances are the worst since the angry but peaceful
protests across the United States in July 2013, over the
acquittal of George Zimmerman, a white Hispanic who killed
unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin during a scuffle in