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Saturday 9 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
michael brown

Ferguson: Protests, violence, over news that police officer won't be charged over shooting of teen

There are peaceful protests against the verdict across the US and riots have broken out again in Ferguson.

  • Officer Darren Wilson won’t be charged over shooting of teen Michael Brown
  • Brown family ask for peaceful protests
  • Protests and violence break out after news emerges
  • Appeals for calm from President Obama
  • 29 people have been arrested so far

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA has appealed for calm after protests broke out following the news that a police officer won’t be charged over the shooting of a teen.

A grand jury decided not to press charges against a white officer, Darren Wilson, who shot dead the black teen, Michael Brown, in Missouri.

President Barack Obama and the family of late 18-year-old Michael Brown have now appealed in vain for calm amid riots after a prosecutor said a grand jury had found the policeman acted in self-defence.

Photos and videos on Twitter and Vine have been emerging that show a number of cars on fire, a fire near the City Hall, missiles being thrown and tear gas being used on protestors.

St Louis County police have been tweeting throughout the unrest, and said that there have been 29 arrests so far around Ferguson.

In a press conference, police also spoke out about the unrest:

The shooting of Brown back in August sparked weeks of sometimes violent protests and a nationwide debate about forceful police tactics and race relations in America.

St Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said Officer Darren Wilson had fired 12 times after getting into an “altercation” with Brown, and that the jury had found no grounds to file charges.

As McCulloch rounded off his summary of the grand jury’s decision, Brown’s mother burst into tears and the crowd began to chant: “Hey, hey, ho, ho! These killer cops have got to go.”

Ferguson AP / Press Association Images An injured man is escorted away from the streets where protesters gather AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Members of an angry crowd outside the police station where Wilson had been threw bottles and stones. A police car was set alight and nearby stores looted.

Riot officers responded with tear gas, batons and flash grenades, and running battles broke out in the streets of the St Louis suburb, with armoured cars moving slowly through the area.

Looters smashed their way into a mobile phone store opposite the police headquarters and ransacked it. An AFP journalist was hurt when he was hit in the face by a hurled brick.

Pam Bailey, a retiree from St Louis in her 60s, said she had expected the decision. “I’ve lived long enough to know that African Americans are not considered human beings,” she said.

Protest marches began in several more US cities — including New York, Chicago and the capital Washington DC — but there were no immediate reports of unrest outside Missouri.

Outside the White House in Washington, a crowd waved signs urging the government to “Stop racist police terror.”

Inside the executive mansion, Obama made a rapidly-organized televised appearance to appeal for calm in the Midwestern town, echoing the sentiments of the dead teenager’s family.

“Michael Brown’s parents have lost more than anyone. We should be honouring their wishes,” Obama said.

“I also appeal to the law enforcement officials in Ferguson and the region to show care and restraint in managing peaceful protests that may occur.”

His call for calm fell on deaf ears in Ferguson, where police were pelted with bricks and bottles and responded with volleys of tear gas.

“It shows that our justice system is corrupt,” said a 21-year-old sales representative from Ferguson who gave his name as Josh. “There’s room for peaceful protests and there’s room for violent protests.”

McCulloch told reporters the evidence presented to the jury had shown Wilson had shot as a legitimate act of self-defence during a tussle that broke out as he was responding to a robbery.

He said the “altercation” had broken out as Wilson was sitting in his patrol car and Brown was at the window. Wilson testified to the jury that Brown leaned into the car and attacked him, grabbing his gun.

A picture taken after the incident and released by the prosecutor showed Wilson with a very slight bruise to his right cheek.

“During the altercation, two shots were fired by Officer Wilson while still inside the vehicle,” McCulloch said.

Twelve shots 

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

After these shots were fired, Wilson is said to have left the car to pursue Brown, who at some point turned on him. Ten shots were fired and the young man was killed, hit six times.

In August, some early witnesses had said that Brown had his hands up and was surrendering when he was killed. But McCulloch said the physical evidence and other witnesses contradicted this account.

“Decisions on a matter as serious as charging an individual with a crime simply cannot be decided on anything less than a complete critical examination of all available evidence,” he said.

In a statement, the Brown family said: “We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions.

“We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful,” the family added, calling for legal reform. “Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction.”

Plea for non-violence 

After the grand jury announcement, Attorney General Eric Holder said that a separate federal civil rights investigation into the incident and Ferguson policing in general would continue.

Ferguson White House AP / Press Association Images Protestors observe a moment of silence as they gather in front of the White House in Washington AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Ferguson’s mainly African American community of 21,000 has been on edge for days, braced for further protests should the officer not be indicted.

The mostly black suburb has an overwhelmingly white police force and residents complain of years of racial prejudice and heavy handed police tactics.

In the days leading up to the decision, Missouri’s governor declared a state of emergency and called up the National Guard last week in readiness. The FBI has also deployed extra personnel.

- © AFP 2014 – with additional reporting Aoife Barry

Read: ‘I don’t want my son’s death to be in vain’>

Read: Police officer who shot unarmed black teen says he ‘feared for his life>

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