Racial violence continues in US town
published : 27 Nov 2014 at 02:17
FERGUSON: Residents of the US town of Ferguson said on Wednesday (Nov 26) they hoped racially-charged violence sparked by the Michael Brown case will abate, but nationwide protests suggest anger is still simmering.
Violence erupted in the St Louis, Missouri suburb for a second night on Tuesday over a decision by a grand jury not to prosecute a white police officer for shooting dead Brown, an unarmed black teenager.
Windows were smashed at city hall, a police car was set on fire and protesters hurled rocks, bottles, chunks of concrete and Molotov cocktails at police - but the unrest was more muted than on Monday. "I think generally it was a much better night," St Louis County police chief Jon Belmar told reporters.
Protest marches however sprang up across the United States on Tuesday, with many thousands of people joining demonstrations in dozens of cities - a relatively rare occurrence in America, and evidence that the case has struck a raw nerve in race relations.
From Seattle to New York, demonstrators rallied, even blocking bridges and tunnels in the Big Apple. More than 180 people were arrested in Los Angeles alone, police said. Civil rights leaders have called for more protests on Saturday.
Similar rallies were held last year after the acquittal on murder charges of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who shot dead another unarmed black teen, Trayvon Martin, in Florida.
In Ferguson, where the National Guard presence was tripled to 2,200 on Tuesday to back up the beleaguered police force in a bid to quell violence, residents said on the eve of Thanksgiving that they hoped the looting and arson would stop.
"I agree you can have your right to say what you feel like saying but when you go beyond that, I do not agree with that at all," said John Adams, who works at a car care centre that was damaged. We're kind of out of a job right now until this is done. (...) I think if you're going to destroy stuff, destroy something of your own."
Karen Gold, who owns a shop selling repurposed furniture and handmade items from local artists near the Ferguson city hall, painted festive scenes on her boarded-up shop front on Wednesday. "Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I hope we can pull together as a community," Gold, who is white, told AFP. "I want to move on from this."
Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, told CBS News that they hoped protests would remain peaceful. "We continue to ask for calm," McSpadden said.
Brown's parents however had harsher words for Darren Wilson, the officer who shot their son and said on Tuesday he had a "clean conscience" about the Aug 9 incident. The grand jury found that Wilson had shot Brown in self-defence after an altercation. A total of 12 shots were fired.
In his first televised comments since the incident, Wilson told ABC News he had feared for his life during the confrontation, believing Brown was attempting to wrestle his gun away from him.
The officer said he was comfortable that he had acted correctly. "I don't think it's haunting. It's always going to be something that happened," he said, adding that his conscience was clear because "I know I did my job right".
A visibly emotional McSpadden said on NBC's "Today" show that Wilson's remarks added "insult after injury" and were "so disrespectful."
His father, Michael Brown Sr., said on NBC he felt the officer's version of events was "crazy." "For one, my son, he respected law enforcement," Brown said. "Two, who in their right mind would rush or charge at a police officer that has his gun drawn? It sounds crazy."
The August shooting of Brown sparked weeks of protest and a debate about race relations and military-style police tactics. The town's community of 21,000 - which is majority black - has been on edge since the shooting, and residents complain of years of racial prejudice and heavy-handed tactics by the predominantly white police force.
Despite appeals by Brown's family for calm in Ferguson on Monday, protests rapidly degenerated into looting, arson and running street battles between police and stone-throwers.
US President Barack Obama called for rioters to be prosecuted, but acknowledged the deep-rooted frustrations of minorities who feel they are unfairly treated by police.
"There are productive ways of responding and expressing those frustrations and there are destructive ways of responding," he said. "Burning buildings, torching cars, destroying property, putting people at risk. That's destructive and there's no excuse for it. Those are criminal acts."