Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the National Guard to Ferguson early Monday, hours after police used tear gas to clear protesters off the streets following a week of demonstrations against the fatal police shooting of a black Missouri teenager.
In a statement, Nixon said the National Guard would help “in restoring peace and order” to the St. Louis suburb that has been filled almost nightly with angry, defiant crowds since 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed Aug. 9.
As night fell in Ferguson, another peaceful protest quickly deteriorated after marchers pushed toward one end of a street and authorities–who said they were responding to reports of gunfire, looting, vandalism and protesters who hurled Molotov cocktails–pushed them back by repeatedly firing tear gas. The streets were empty well before a state-imposed curfew took effect at midnight.
“Based on the conditions, I had no alternative but to elevate the level of response,” said Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, who is command in Ferguson.
At least two people were wounded in shootings by civilians, he said.
Sunday’s clashes in Ferguson erupted three hours before the midnight curfew imposed by a day earlier by Nixon.
Officers in riot gear ordered all protesters to disperse. Many of the marchers retreated, but a group of about 100 stood defiantly about two blocks away until getting hit by another volley of tear gas.
Protesters laid a line of cinder blocks across the street near the QuikTrip convenience store that was burned down last week. It was an apparent attempt to block police vehicles, but the vehicles easily plowed through. Someone set a nearby trash bin on fire, and the crackle of gunfire could be heard from several blocks away.
Earlier in the day, Johnson said he had met members of Brown’s family and the experience “brought tears to my eyes and shame to my heart.”
“When this is over,” he told the crowd, “I’m going to go in my son’s room. My black son, who wears his pants sagging, who wears his hat cocked to the side, got tattoos on his arms, but that’s my baby.”
Johnson added: “We all need to thank the Browns for Michael. Because Michael’s going to make it better for our sons to be better black men.”
Nixon said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that he was not aware the police were going to release surveillance video from the store where Brown is alleged to have stolen a $49 box of cigars.
“It’s appeared to cast aspersions on a young man that was gunned down in the street. It made emotions raw,” Nixon said.
About 150 people gathered in St. Louis on Sunday to show support for Wilson. The crowd protested outside a TV station because it had broadcast from in front of the officer’s home.
The station, KSDK, later apologized on its website. Others in the group, composed mostly of police and relatives of officers, carried signs urging people to wait for all the facts in the shooting case.