National Guard called to Ferguson, Missouri
(CNN) — The St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, has become a national flashpoint in the debate over race, the use of force by police and militarization of police agencies.
More than a week after Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, protests have been marred by confrontations with police, looting and violence.
Here’s what’s next in this unfolding situation:
National Guard steps in
Early Monday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the state National Guard into Ferguson to restore peace after what he called “deliberate, coordinated and intensifying violence attacks on lives and property.”
He issued the order after a chaotic night in which authorities said violent protesters fired on officers, threw firebombs at them and tried to, in the governor’s words, “overrun” the police command post. Some protesters disputed that characterization, accusing police of aggravating the situation with heavy-handed tactics.
Nixon’s order didn’t say what role the troops will fill, whether they would be armed or when they would arrive.
Despite the added presence of the National Guard, there’s little reason to think protests will die down. Anger is palpable in Ferguson, especially after Friday’s release of records implicating Brown in a convenience store robbery shortly before he died.
Brown’s family has made “plain and clear” they don’t want anyone angry to riot, loot or resort to violence, attorney Anthony Gray said. But they do want people to stand with them and press for action.
“We’re asking the community … to please support us, stay with us, but do not get distracted,” Eric Davis, a cousin of Brown’s mother, said Friday. “We do not want to see any violence in the street.”
What began as peaceful protests spiraled into disarray after two civilians were shot and injured, Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said. He said those civilians were not shot by police.
“Tonight, a Sunday that started with prayers and messages of unity, peace and justice took a very different turn after dark,” Johnson said early Monday morning.
Some protesters hurled Molotov cocktails at police, and several businesses were vandalized or looted — despite the Brown family’s call for calm.
“Based on these conditions, I had no alternative but to elevate the level of our response,” Johnson said.
Officers fired tear gas into a crowd of hundreds of protesters, including children, who were marching toward a police command post despite an impending midnight curfew.
But protester Lisha Williams challenged the notion that protesters provoked officers.
“That is a lie. It was no fight, it was no shots fired,” Williams told CNN late Sunday night. “All we did was march to the command center to fall to our knees and say, ‘Don’t shoot.’ And they started shooting.”
The clashes kept escalating, with the St. Charles County sheriff’s officials saying shots were fired in their direction.
At one point, employees at a McDonald’s restaurant locked themselves in a storage room after the store was overrun, Johnson said.
St. Louis County police said most of the crowds had dispersed after the curfew went into effect at midnight. The curfew will end at 5 a.m. (6 a.m. ET).
But the anxiety remains. The Ferguson-Florissant School District canceled classes for Monday.
“Information we received from officials on the scene late Sunday evening has contributed to concerns we have about children walking to school or waiting for buses on streets impacted by this activity,” the school district said on its Facebook page.
A midnight to 5 a.m. curfew remains in effect.
St. Louis County police and the federal Justice Department are each looking into Brown’s shooting.
Ferguson police handed over the shooting investigation to the county to avoid any appearance of impropriety, city police Chief Thomas Jackson said last week.
President Barack Obama has the Justice Department, including the FBI, looking into the case as well.
FBI agents are in Ferguson conducting interviews, the Justice Department said, but don’t expect quick results.
Attorney General Eric Holder has said the investigation will take time to conduct but promised a “thorough and fair” analysis into whether any federal civil rights violations had occurred.
The police officer
Wilson, 28, who has six years on the force with no disciplinary issues on his record, is on paid administrative leave, authorities said.
Whether he’ll return to duty is uncertain. He would have to undergo two psychological evaluations first, authorities said.
Law officials have described Wilson as “very shaken.” He was briefly taken to the hospital following the confrontation with Brown for treatment of an injury that left his face swollen, according to Jackson.
“He’s devastated. He never intended for this to happen,” Jackson said. “He was a gentleman. A quiet officer. He is and has been an excellent police officer.”
Michael Brown’s family
They’ve hired lawyers and expressed outrage at how the police have handled things, including Friday’s simultaneous release of the officer’s name and surveillance video from the day of the shooting that showed a man identified in police documents as Brown roughing up a convenience store clerk while purportedly stealing cigars.
The family and critics of the department have accused police of trying to damage Brown’s character. Jackson said he released both the officer’s name and the video because the media requested it.
The family has conceded their son wasn’t “a perfect kid,” said family attorney Daryl Parks.
The family and their attorneys, however, took strong exception to the department’s actions.
“Michael Brown’s family is beyond outraged at the devious way the police chief has chosen to disseminate piecemeal information in a manner intended to assassinate the character of their son, following such a brutal assassination of his person in broad daylight,” the family and their attorneys said in a statement.
“There is nothing based on the facts that have been placed before us that can justify the execution style murder of their child by this police officer as he held his hands up, which is the universal sign of surrender,” the statement said.
What about the community?
Schools in Ferguson and two nearby districts — Jennings and Riverview Gardens — will be closed Monday due to the ongoing violence, CNN affiliate KMOV reported Monday.
With all the chaos, businesses have also been affected. More looting was reported overnight in the adjacent city of Dellwood. Several businesses have been ransacked, some burned.
“I know that people are upset, but is this the justice for Mike Brown?” the owner of a looted store asked KMOV. The station showed bullet holes in the store’s facade, broken windows and destruction inside.
“All the small businesses, now they’re running them out, and then people will complain later on and say there are no businesses in their neighborhood,” the owner said. “I can’t survive like this.”
CNN’s Greg Botelho contributed to this report.
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