Ferguson calm as new US police shooting in spotlight
FERGUSON, United States – The streets of Ferguson were calm Thursday, November 27, on the Thanksgiving holiday, but video showing Cleveland police shooting dead a young black boy could once again inflame simmering tensions over race and justice in America.
Ferguson, a suburb of St Louis, has seen three days of sometimes violent protests over Monday's explosive decision by a Missouri grand jury not to charge a white policeman who shot dead an unarmed black teen in August.
The decision revived long-standing questions about the treatment of young African Americans by police -- questions again asked after the weekend shooting in Cleveland of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
Surveillance video released Wednesday in the Ohio city showed Rice, who was carrying a replica gun, was killed within seconds of the patrol car arriving on the scene in a park.
The officer who fired the fatal shot was fairly new to the force, and is white.
Cleveland police also released audio from a 911 emergency call from a man who first saw the boy waving the gun, saying he thought it was "probably fake."
However, the dispatcher did not tell the officers that the gun was possibly a toy nor that the suspect was likely a youth, the tape showed.
Ferguson protests dwindling
In Ferguson, just a few dozen protesters and clergy braved rain and light snow late Wednesday to protest outside the police department in the St Louis suburb, where 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed on August 9.
"This is what democracy looks like," shouted the mainly young demonstrators, bundled up against the cold.
One or two taunted and swore at the 50 National Guard troops in riot gear who stood on duty at the police department.
Witnesses said police took one person into custody.
Protesters later marched from the police department past city hall, briefly blocking traffic. They dispersed peacefully as police in riot gear turned up and rally organizers ordered demonstrators to move onto sidewalks to avoid a confrontation.
The shooting death of Brown sparked weeks of protest and a debate about race relations and heavy-handed police tactics.
The decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, who fired the fatal shots, has sparked fresh protests across the United States as well as a rally across the Atlantic in London.
Volunteer clean-up crews have swept the streets of Ferguson since angry crowds on Monday torched businesses and looted stores.
Heavy security -- police, state troopers and National Guard troops -- has still been visible in the streets, but the situation appears to be stabilizing.
In Britain, thousands of sympathizers angered by Brown's treatment marched in London, chanting: "Hands up, don't shoot."
"We need to send a message to Mike Brown's family," said Carol Duggan, the aunt of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old black man whose shooting by British police in 2011 sparked riots in London.
US civil rights leaders have called for more protests on Saturday.
Ferguson residents have said that they hope the looting and arson seen earlier this week will stop.
Karen Gold, who owns a shop selling repurposed furniture and handmade items from local artists near the Ferguson city hall, painted festive scenes on her boarded-up shop front.
"I hope we can pull together as a community," Gold, who is white, told AFP. "I want to move on from this."
Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, told CBS News that they hoped protests would remain peaceful.
"We continue to ask for calm," McSpadden said.
Brown's parents however had harsher words for Wilson, who said Tuesday he had a "clean conscience" about the shooting.
The grand jury found that Wilson had shot Brown in self-defense after an altercation. A total of 12 shots were fired.
In his first televised comments since the incident, Wilson told ABC News he had feared for his life during the confrontation, believing Brown was attempting to wrestle his gun away from him.
A visibly emotional McSpadden said on NBC's "Today" show that Wilson's remarks added "insult after injury" and were "so disrespectful."
His father, Michael Brown Sr., said on NBC he felt the officer's version of events was "crazy."
"For one, my son, he respected law enforcement," Brown said. "Two, who in their right mind would rush or charge at a police officer that has his gun drawn? It sounds crazy."
Brown told CNN the family was braced for a difficult Thanksgiving.
"It's going to be a tough one. And this is not the only holiday that's coming up," he said, as McSpadden teared up beside him. – with Afi Scruggs in Cleveland/Rappler.com