Civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri over the death of Michael Brown continued this morning. Protesters have gathered in the streets of Ferguson for five consecutive days since Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, was fatally shot by a Ferguson Police Department officer.
Late last night, armored police officers ordered protesters to disperse and told them they were not assembling peacefully. Tear gas and rubber bullets were used to clear the crowd, the LA Times reports. Protesters held signs that said “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” as police closed in. The signs are a clear reference to Brown, who reportedly had his hands raised in surrender when he was fatally shot.
Although the protests have been largely peaceful this week, demonstrators have occasionally turned aggressive at night. A Ferguson police officer shot and wounded a demonstrator at 1 a.m. Wednesday night after the man allegedly pointed a handgun at police.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon issued a statement yesterday asking protesters to only assemble during daylight hours to ensure safety in the Ferguson community. Nixon also ordered the Ferguson Police Department to respect the rights of residents and media members during the ongoing unrest.
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Nixon’s directions regarding media members come after three journalists were arrested by Ferguson police on Wednesday. The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery and the Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly were both working at a McDonalds when police barged in and ordered the restaurant evacuated. Lowery and Reilly recorded the officers during the evacuation. After allegedly taking too long to exit, both reporters were arrested. Lowery claims an officer slammed him into a soda machine as he was handcuffed. The reporters were detained for several hours before being released. No charges were filed.
Washington Post executive editor Martin D. Baron slammed the arrests and said Ferguson police were infringing on the rights of the press to cover the story.
“That behavior was wholly unwarranted and an assault on the freedom of the press to cover the news,” Baron said. “The physical risk to Wesley himself is obvious and outrageous.”
Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson has held numerous press conferences in the days following Brown’s death. Yesterday, he said the protests are the result of racial unrest that has reached a tipping point.
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"Unfortunately, an undertow (of racial unrest) has bubbled to the surface," Jackson said. "Race relations is the top priority right now."
According to the Associated Press,Jackson told reporters he welcomes Justice Department training on racial relations for his department. Although two-thirds of Ferguson residents are African-American, all but three of the town’s 53 police officers are white.
Demonstrations across Ferguson are expected to continue today. St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said details regarding Brown’s shooting will not be released any time soon. In a televised news conference, McCulloch said “We are still in the information gathering part of the investigation.”