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Monday 2 October 2023 Dublin: 11°C
# Riots
Two wounded by gunfire as violence ramps up in Ferguson protests
Riot police fired tear gas into the crowd and seven people have been arrested overnight.

AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

RIOT POLICE HURLED tear gas and marched on rioters late yesterday in Ferguson, after they were hit by Molotov cocktails and looting broke out, the commander in charge of security in the violence-wracked town said this morning.

At an impromptu press conference, Captain Ronald Johnson justified the forceful police response to disperse an unruly crowd a few hours before the midnight curfew.

At least two people were wounded by gunfire among the protesters, Johnson said. The New York Post reports seven people have also been arrested overnight.

Molotov cocktails were thrown. There were shootings, looting, vandalism, and other acts of violence that clearly appear not to have been spontaneous but premeditated criminal acts designed to damage property, hurt people, and provoke a response.

He described it as “disobedience, preplanned aggression.”

Police responded when a civilian was shot in the protest area around 8.25 pm. “That was followed by shots being fired on officers, a number of Molotov cocktails being hurled, and then the looting or vandalism” of at least five businesses, he said.

Other gunshots were fired in the area, and there were reports of eight people carrying guns.

Just before 9pm, hundreds of protesters marched toward the police command post, and people in the crowd threw “multiple” Molotov cocktails, bottles and rockets at police.

“Based on these conditions, I had no alternative but to elevate the level of our response,” Johnson said.

Police in body armour, helmets and gas masks moved in with armoured vehicles to disperse a mob of mostly young people.

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Some of the youths carried signs protesting police brutality. Many had their hands up in the air, and others taunted police and threw back tear gas canisters.

Police dispersed the protest after rioters threw Molotov cocktails at officers:

Officer from St Charles County said that gunshots were fired in the direction of the police.

The city has endured days of violence since a white police officer on 9 August shot dead Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old.

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Images posted by the Post-Dispatch showed rioters smashing the windows of the McDonald’s restaurant where two journalists were recently arrested. Reports also showed the restaurant being looted, though witnesses said protesters were taking milk to pour on the faces of those hit by tear gas.

“We were walking up peacefully towards the command center to kneel in protest in front of the police, to say ‘our hands are up,’” said Lisha Williams, who was in the march.

AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

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“They started firing tear gas at us out of the blue. I know what tear gas is, my face was burning,” said Williams, who described herself as an army veteran.

Police Shooting Missouri AP / Press Association Images A woman tries to recover after being hit by tear gas after police dispersed a crowd. AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Brown shot six times 

Brown was shot at least six times – twice in the head and four times in the right arm – the New York Times reported, citing a preliminary private autopsy.

All the shots were fired into his front, the Times reported, citing Michael Baden, the former New York City chief medical examiner who conducted an autopsy at the family’s request.

“People have been asking: How many times was he shot? This information could have been released on Day One,” Baden told The Times.

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“They don’t do that, even as feelings built up among the citizenry that there was a cover-up. We are hoping to alleviate that,” he said.

Baden, 80, is a famous forensic pathologist who has testified at the trial of OJ Simpson, and was consulted for investigations into the deaths of John F Kennedy and actor John Belushi.

Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing Brown’s family, said on Twitter that he and Baden would hold a press conference this morning:

Crump, who called Brown’s death an “execution,” earlier represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black 16-year-old shot dead in Florida in 2012.

Brown’s family has accused authorities of a “devious” attempt to smear their son’s character after police named him as a suspect in the robbery of a Ferguson convenience store and released a surveillance video of the incident.

Police Shooting Missouri AP / Press Association Images Michael Brown's parents at a rally on Sunday. AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Police said the officer, unaware of the robbery, stopped the teen merely for walking in the middle of the street.

Supporters of the officer, Michael Brown, also rallied yesterday in downtown St Louis to show their solidarity with him and other members of the police force, Huffington Post reported.

Peaceful church gathering 

The late Sunday protest, held near the site where Brown was killed, followed a much larger and peaceful event at the Greater Grace Church in Ferguson earlier in the day honouring Brown.

Captain Ron Johnson, the African-American state patrol officer put in charge of Ferguson security, apologized for the shooting.

Police Shooting Missouri AP / Press Association Images Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson. AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

“I want to start off by talking to Mike Brown’s family. I want you to know my heart goes out to you, and I say that I’m sorry,” Johnson said to loud cheering and applause from a crowd of more than 1,300.

“I will be here as long as it takes.”

Johnson, who grew up in St Louis, also acknowledged the personal toll the violence has taken on him.

“The last 24 hours have been tough for me,” he said.

Hundreds more people stood outside the church that was filled to capacity, where passing cars honked at length.

Young people who had gathered outside the church held their hands in the air, paying homage to what some witnesses said was Brown’s last gesture before being shot.

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Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, who was at the morning event, was surprised later about the evening violence.

“I’m astonished at the reversal of the mood,” he told CNN, saying that the mood earlier among Ferguson residents had been more constructive.

Federal involvement 

Amid the growing violence, the federal government has stepped up its involvement in the investigation.

Attorney General Eric Holder is due to brief President Barack Obama on the violence in Ferguson today, the White House said in a statement.

Obama’s senior advisor Valerie Jarrett told AURN radio:

Our immediate goal is to make sure that the residents of Ferguson are safe, that the looting stops, that the vandalism stops, that the people who are living in the community are confident that justice will be done.

FBI agents are already in Ferguson interviewing witnesses to the shooting, officials said.

The US Justice Department said that a federal medical examiner would carry out an autopsy on Brown’s body, citing the case’s “extraordinary circumstances.”

It will be the third autopsy after Baden’s and an autopsy performed by state medical examiners.

- © AFP 2014 with additional reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

Read: Ferguson to be under curfew for the second night>

Read: Police fire smoke and tear gas at defiant Ferguson protesters>

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