Crime & Justice

Michael Brown: US Attorney General Eric Holder writes op-ed; Ferguson calls for nighttime calm

Protesters walk on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo., on Tuesday. Protests have been going on for more than a week after the police shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown.
Protesters walk on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo., on Tuesday. Protests have been going on for more than a week after the police shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown.
Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images
Protesters walk on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo., on Tuesday. Protests have been going on for more than a week after the police shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown.
Teargas is deployed after police were fired upon Monday in Ferguson, Mo.
Jeff Roberson/AP


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Update 4:43 p.m. Attorney General Eric Holder has made a pledge to Ferguson, Mo., where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer on Aug. 9.

"Our investigation into this matter will be full, it will be fair, and it will be independent," he wrote in an op-ed for the St. Louis Dispatch. He added, "Long after the events of Aug. 9 have receded from the headlines, the Justice Department will continue to stand with this community."

City leaders in the St. Louis suburb are calling for residents to "stay home at night, allow peace to settle in, and allow for the justice process to take its course."

Here are a few other noteworthy developments today:

What to watch for Tuesday night into Wednesday:

1:22 p.m. Memorial planned for teen killed by police

The family of Michael Brown says they'll hold a public memorial for the slain teenager on Monday, reports The Los Angeles Times, which adds that the family hopes his body is released to them in the next two days.

While early reports Tuesday stated "31 people had been arrested, some of whom came as far away as New York and California," NBC News says it has more recent police data showing 78 arrests — and of those arrested, the "overwhelming majority of them were from Missouri."

An online memorial fund for Brown set up by the family's attorneys has now reached nearly $90,000. The firm says the family will use the money to pay for Brown's funeral expenses, as well as travel and living expenses as they advocate for justice on his behalf.

Residents of Ferguson and St. Louis say they're surprised to find themselves in the middle of a national discussion about race and police use of force. NPR's Gene Demby says that despite St. Louis not having a history of civil disobedience, the times have changed.

A voter registration push is underway in the neighborhood where Brown was shot, as activists urge demonstrators to vote. "In Ferguson, only 6 percent of registered African-American voters cast ballots in last year's municipal elections," NPR's Shereen Marisol Meraji reports. "The mayor is white, as are five of the six City Council members."

7:11 a.m.: Fresh clashes in Ferguson as National Guard arrives

Protesters clashed yet again with police in Ferguson, Mo., the St. Louis suburb where Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot by police Aug. 9. National Guard troops moved in by Gov. Jay Nixon didn't get involved, and the officer in charge of security in Ferguson said police came under fire and were targeted by Molotov cocktails. Thirty-one people were arrested.

Protesters took to the streets Monday night after Nixon said there would be no midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew. But police told them they had to keep moving and couldn't congregate in one spot. The Associated Press reports: [O]fficers trying to enforce tighter restrictions at times used bullhorns to order them to disperse. Police deployed noisemakers and armored vehicles to push demonstrators back. Officers fired tear gas and flash grenades."

NPR's Elise Hu, who is at the scene, told our Newscast unit that the situation deteriorated rapidly.

"What had begun as a calm evening and a standoff between cops and some demonstrators ... turned in a flash, and smoke bombs and tear gas were thrown at the crowds to disperse the crowd," she said. "The crowd started rushing back. I happened to see the smoke bombs or tear gas being thrown in both directions because some of the demonstrators actually picked up what was thrown at them and threw them back at police."

Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, who is in charge of security in Ferguson, said officers didn't fire a single bullet "despite coming under heavy attack." He said four St. Louis County police officers were hit by rocks and bottles and sustained injury. He said "criminals" in the crowd fired shots and threw Molotov cocktails at officers.

"These criminal acts came from a tiny minority of lawbreakers," Johnson said. "But anyone who has been at these protests understands that there is a dangerous dynamic in the night. It allows a small number of violent agitators to hide in the crowd and then attempt to create chaos."

As of 2 a.m. Tuesday, 31 people had been arrested, some of whom came as far away as new York and California, Johnson said. Police also said two people were shot, but police officers weren't involved in those incidents, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Several members of the media were arrested briefly, too. Scott Olson of Getty Images was covering the demonstrations; two German reporters — Ansgar Graw and reporter Frank Herrmann – allegedly failed to follow police instructions, a claim they denied. All were later released.

NPR's Hu tweeted:

Tweet

But the AP quoted Johnson as saying journalists had to be asked "repeatedly to return to the sidewalks and that it was a matter of safety." And in some cases, he said, it wasn't immediately clear who was a reporter.

The unrest is having an impact on the community at large. Schools in Ferguson will be closed until the end of the week.

Lisa Chabot, who lives about a mile from where protests erupted, told St. Louis Public Radio's Tim Lloyd that parents are exhausted.

"I want our kids to get back to normal," she said. "This is tearing our community up. We have a beautiful community and it's very frustrating for all the parents in the area."

The clashes came a day after several significant developments:

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