National Guard troops walk through a staging area inside a shopping centre parking lot in Ferguson, Missouri. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
The governor of Missouri has ordered the withdrawal of
National Guard troops from riot-torn Ferguson, where tensions
have eased after sometimes violent protests were staged
nightly since police killed an unarmed black teenager.
Peaceful demonstrations overnight were the calmest street
gatherings in the small St. Louis suburb since riots erupted
over the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a
white police officer.
The controversial shooting by Officer Darren Wilson prompted
angry demonstrations along with looting and random gunfire
from largely black crowds. Police have used tear gas and
heavy armored vehicles to clear the streets and the Missouri
National Guard was called in to help.
But the crowds have thinned, and the mood is decidedly less
tense. Police said six people were arrested overnight - far
fewer than the scores detained on earlier nights of racial
Governor Jay Nixon ordered the National Guard to begin
withdrawing from Ferguson, saying in a statement: "We
continue to see improvement."
"Things are de-escalating," said Roy Harris outside Original
Reds B-B-Q, located on West Florissant Avenue where many of
the protests have taken place.
The restaurant has boarded up its windows but written in
large letters in red paint on the plywood planks is the
promise: "We will be back!!!" and workers were selling
sandwiches in the parking lot next to an outdoor meat smoker.
"We are seeing the judicial process beginning," said Harris,
who works as a youth counselor in St. Louis. "Voices are
actually being heard."
A grand jury met on Wednesday to begin hearing evidence in
the case. That process could take into October before the
panel releases its findings, said St. Louis County
Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch.
McCulloch, who is responsible for deciding whether to pursue
criminal charges against the police officer, has held the top
county prosecutor's job for 23 years and has promised an
Many Ferguson residents, angry that the police officer in
question is not in custody and has gone into hiding, fear
that if there is no indictment, more street violence is
CALL FOR SPECIAL PROSECUTOR
Frustrated by the pace of the process, protesters outside
McCulloch's office in nearby Clayton called for his removal
from the case. They want the appointment of a special
prosecutor, an expedited grand jury proceeding and the
immediate arrest of Wilson, who has been placed on leave.
State Senator Jamilah Nasheed arrived at McCulloch's office
to deliver petitions calling for his ouster.
"I am here to deliver a message to Bob McCulloch that the
people do not have any confidence in him," Nasheed said. "The
people's opinion is that he totally has no ability to do the
Zaki Baruti, a leader of the Universal African Peoples
Organization, warned that Wednesday night's relative quiet
did not necessarily mean crowds would remain peaceful.
"Civil disobedience is coming down the line, in a strong way,
until our demands are met," Baruti said.
Outside a fast-food restaurant on West Florissant Avenue in
Ferguson, a small contingent of angry young black men held a
homemade wanted poster for Wilson, just blocks from the
street where Brown was killed.
They warned there would be no lasting peace until the officer
was brought to justice.
"For us he is a wanted man. It is time for calm and peace but
only if they bring him to justice," said 23-year-old Dontey
Carter, shirtless with a scarf wrapped around his head.
Overnight into early Thursday, a few gunshots rang out and at
least one officer was hit by a bottle, but Missouri State
Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson said: "The trend is good."
"Crowds were smaller, they were calm and orderly," said
Johnson, a black officer appointed to oversee security.
Outside the Ferguson Police Department, Nick Smith stood with
a small group of protesters braving the hot sun and held a
sign reading: "I am black. I am a man. Respect me."
"I think things are calming down," the retired railroad
worker said. But he cautioned that the community could not
return to such divisiveness and hostility between residents
of the majority black town and the overwhelmingly white
"I am quite sure it is hard to be a policeman in this day and
age, but you can't treat us like animals," he said. "It is
time for a change."
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder met with Brown's parents on
Wednesday and promised a thorough investigation into the case
that has fueled debate over the justice system's treatment of
The Justice Department has launched an investigation to
whether federal prosecutors can bring criminal charges