The National Guard arrived in Ferguson but kept its distance from the streets where protesters clashed again with police, as clouds of tear gas and smoke hung over the Missouri city where an unarmed black teenager was fatally shot by a police officer.
Protesters filled the streets after nightfall yesterday, and officers trying to enforce tighter restrictions at times used bullhorns to order them to disperse. Police fired tear gas and flash grenades, and deployed noisemakers and armoured vehicles to push demonstrators back.
Molotov cocktails and bottles were thrown from the crowd and some officers came under heavy gunfire, said Capt Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, who is in charge of security in Ferguson.
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At least two people were shot and 31 were arrested, he said. Four officers were injured by rocks or bottles. A photographer and two German reporters were arrested and later released.
The latest clashes came after a day in which a pathologist hired by the family of Michael Brown’s family said the 18-year-old suffered a bullet wound to his right arm that may indicate his hands were up or his back was turned. But the pathologist said the team that examined Brown cannot be sure yet exactly how the wounds were inflicted until they have more information.
Brown’s August 6 slaying by a white officer has inflamed racial tensions in Ferguson, a predominantly black St Louis suburb where the police force is mostly white.
Addressing the crisis on Monday, President Barack said the mistrust between police and local residents was endemic in many of America’s communities and overcoming it would require Americans to “listen and not just shout.”
He tried to strike a balanced tone, calling for respect for police but also understanding of the plight of young black men who feel unjustly targeted by law enforcement.
“In too many communities, too many young men of colour are left behind and seen only as objects of fear,” Obama said at the White House, while adding that crimes must be prosecuted and police honoured for doing their jobs.
Obama said the vast majority of protesters in Ferguson were peaceful but a small minority was undermining justice. He said he spoke to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon about his deployment of the National Guard in Ferguson and urged the governor to ensure the military reserve force was used in a limited way.
The president said Attorney General Eric Holder would arrive tomorrow in Ferguson to meet with FBI and other officials carrying out an independent federal investigation into Brown’s death.
The Justice Department has mounted an unusually swift and aggressive response to Brown’s death, from the independent autopsy to dozens of FBI agents combing Ferguson for witnesses to the shooting.
Demonstrators no longer faced a midnight-to-5 am curfew that the governor had imposed but police told protesters that they could not assemble in a single spot and had to keep moving. After the streets had been mostly cleared, authorities ordered reporters to leave as well, citing the risk from gunfire that had been reported.