Ferguson Street Now a War Zone as Jury Decided to Free Police Who Shot Unharmed Boy (Photos)
The fatal shooting of Michael Brown sparked weeks of demonstrations and exposed deep racial tension between African-Americans and police.
President Barack Obama and the family of Mr Brown asked for calm after St Louis County’s senior prosecutor announced the grand jury’s decision.
As the president spoke live from the White House briefing room, television networks showed Mr Obama on one side of the screen, and violent demonstrations in Ferguson on the other.
Within a few hours, several buildings were ablaze, and frequent gunfire was heard. Officers used tear gas to try to disperse some of the gatherings.
There was also looting at several businesses after the Ferguson protests turned violent.A protester urinates in front of a burning auto parts store (Picture: EPA)
Multiple fires burned early today, including at storage facility, car parts stores and a beauty supply shop. An AP photographer saw firefighters arrive at one scene only to be turned back by gunfire.
Not long after it was announced that Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted, protesters smashed a police car’s windows and tried to topple it before it was set ablaze. Some in the crowd tried to stop others from taking part.
Officers lobbed smoke, pepper spray and tear gas from inside armoured vehicles to break up the crowds.
Mr Wilson’s fatal shooting of Brown during an August 9 confrontation sparked a fierce debate over how police treat young African-American men.
It focused attention on long-simmering racial tensions in Ferguson and around the US, four decades after the 1960s civil rights movement. Police were criticised for responding to mostly peaceful protests with armoured vehicles and tear gas.
The authorities released more than 1,000 pages of grand jury documents, including the testimony of Mr Wilson. Riot policemen pass a burning police car (Picture: EPA)
He said in his testimony that during their struggle he warned Mr Brown he would shoot if he did not back away, and that Mr Brown tried to grab his gun.
Mr Obama said from the White House that Americans need to accept the grand jury’s decision.
‘We are a nation built on the rule of law, so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make,’ he said.
He said it was understandable that some Americans would be ‘deeply disappointed – even angered,’ but echoed Mr Brown’s parents in calling for any protests to be peaceful.
St Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch stressed that the grand jurors, who had met weekly since August 20, were ‘the only people who heard every witness … and every piece of evidence’.
He said many witness presented conflicting statements that ultimately were inconsistent with the physical evidence. The panel heard more than 70 hours of testimony from about 60 witnesses, including three medical examiners and experts on blood, toxicology and firearms.
Mr McCulloch never mentioned that Mr Brown was unarmed when he was killed.
As Mr McCulloch read his statement, Mr Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, was sitting on top of a vehicle listening to a broadcast of the announcement.
When she heard the decision, she burst into tears and began screaming before being whisked away by supporters.
The crowd with her erupted in anger, converging on the barricade where police in riot gear were standing. They pushed down the barricade and began pelting police with objects, including a bullhorn. Officers stood their ground.
Police departments in several big were bracing for large demonstrations with the potential for violence. Thousands of people protested from Los Angeles to New York, leading marches, waving signs and shouting chants of ‘Hands Up! Don’t Shoot,’ the slogan that has become a rallying cry in protests over police killings across the country.
Dozens of people in Oakland, California, blocked traffic on a major highway in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Mr Brown’s family released a statement saying they were ‘profoundly disappointed’ by the decision.
But they asked the public to ‘channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.’
In Mr Wilson’s testimony, he told jurors that he initially encountered Mr Brown and a friend walking in a street and, when he told them to move to a pavement, Mr Brown responded with an expletive.
He noticed that Mr Brown had a handful of cigars, and referred to a radio report moments earlier of a robbery at a nearby convenience store.
As he tried to open his police car’s door, Mr Wilson said Mr Brown slammed it back shut.
The officer said he then pushed Mr Brown with the door and the teenager hit him in the face.
‘I drew my gun,’ Mr Wilson told the grand jury. ‘I said, ‘Get back or I’m going to shoot you.”
Mr Wilson said Mr Brown immediately grabbed the gun with his right hand, twisted it and ‘digs it into my hip’.
Mr Brown then fled, and Mr Wilson gave chase. At some point, Mr Brown turned around to face the officer.
Witness accounts were conflicted about whether Mr Brown walked, stumbled or charged back toward Wilson before he was fatally wounded, Mr McCulloch said.
There were also differing accounts of how or whether Mr Brown’s hands were raised. His body fell about 153 feet from Wilson’s vehicle.
The shooting inflamed tensions in the predominantly black St Louis suburb that is patrolled by an overwhelmingly white police force.
Protests continued for weeks – often peacefully, but sometimes turning violent, with demonstrators throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails and police firing smoke canisters, tear gas and rubber bullets.
The Ferguson protests recalled other racially charged cases, including the riots that rocked Los Angeles in 1992 after the acquittal of white police officers in the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King.
There were also peaceful protests after last year’s not-guilty verdict over the Florida killing of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, who was not a police officer but co-ordinated the local neighbourhood watch.
Mr Obama, who has faced repeated calls to visit Ferguson, said he would ‘take a look’ at whether such a visit would now be wise.
Under his attorney general, Eric Holder, the Justice Department is conducting a separate investigation into possible civil rights violations that could result in federal charges against Mr Wilson.
The department has also launched a broad probe into the Ferguson Police Department, looking for patterns of discrimination.
Its lawyers face a difficult burden to meet – that Mr Wilson wilfully deprived Mr Brown of his civil rights. That is a high bar especially considering the wide latitude given to police officers in using deadly force.
Via (Metro UK)