Missouri Governor Lifts Curfew for St. Louis Neighborhood as National Guard is Deployed

National Guard troops arrive at a mall complex that serves as staging for the police in Ferguson, Missouri, August 18, 2014. (PHOTO CREDIT: Reuters/Mark Kauzlarich)
National Guard troops arrive at a mall complex that serves as staging for the police in Ferguson, Missouri, August 18, 2014. (PHOTO CREDIT: Reuters/Mark Kauzlarich)

Missouri’s governor lifted the curfew for the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Monday as National Guard troops were called out after days of violent unrest sparked by the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman.

The National Guard deployment is the latest in a series of steps by authorities to end the looting and burning of stores that have punctuated protests and raised questions about race relations in the United States since the shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, on Aug. 9.

Governor Jay Nixon, who had declared a state of emergency for the town on Saturday and ordered the streets cleared for a curfew that ran from midnight to 5 a.m., said the National Guard would fall under the supervision of the Missouri Highway Patrol.

The first few hours of evening protests were relatively peaceful, with police on the street mostly leaving aside riot gear they had worn on other nights. Protesters marched in a slow loop along a stretch of downtown Ferguson, pounding drums and chanting “the whole damn system is guilty as hell.”

However, there was one tense standoff when scores of well-armed police wearing gas masks and flanked by armored vehicles used noise cannons to disperse a crowd.

The Missouri State Police captain put in charge of the scene told reporters that protesters would not be allowed to congregate on the streets Monday.

“We’re going to stage them in this parking lot,” captain Ron Johnson said. “We are going to contain the criminal element.”

National Guard troops could be seen walking on the fringes of the gathering, keeping a distance from protesters. The Federal Aviation Administration said on Monday it had renewed a ban on low-flying civilian aircraft over Ferguson to help law enforcement authorities do their job.

Mark Stafford, a church pastor from O’Fallon, Missouri, said: “They tell you to stand still, then they tell you to keep walking, then they tell you to stand still.”

Getty photographer Scott Olson, with cameras around his neck and his hands bound behind him, was led off the street by police. Getty Images said in a statement it stood behind its photographer and was working to secure his release.

At least one other person was seen being taken into custody by about a dozen police officers.

President Barack Obama said he told the governor that the use of the National Guard should be limited and urged healing instead of violence. Attorney General Eric Holder will travel to Ferguson on Wednesday, Obama said.

“While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving in to that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos. It undermines rather than advancing justice,” Obama told a news conference.

The president met Holder on Monday to discuss the unrest. Holder said more than 40 FBI agents were canvassing Ferguson neighborhoods in an investigation that included federal and local officials.

“Moreover, at my direction, an additional medical examination is being performed on the body of Michael Brown,” Holder said. Results of official autopsies by federal authorities and the county are pending.

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SOURCE: Reuters
Ellen Wulfhorst and Scott Malone

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