Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon speaks at a news conference.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon speaks at a news conference dealing with the aftermath of a police shooting of teenager Michael Brown, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. Photo by AP
Text size
AFP
Demonstrators protest on August 16, 2014, at the site where Michael Brown was killed on Canfield Drive in Ferguson, Missouri. Photo by AFP
AP
Convenience store burned by rioters in Ferguson, Missouri, after police killing of black teenager Michael Brown, August 10, 2014. Photo by AP

REUTERS - Hundreds of demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri, angry at the shooting death of a black teenager by a white police officer took to the streets in the rain on Saturday night, ahead of a planned curfew called for by the state's governor.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency after a week of racially charged protests and looting over the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in the suburban St. Louis community. The curfew will run from midnight until 5 a.m. CDT (0500 to 1000 GMT) until further notice, officials said.

The mood among hundreds of protesters on a main road in Ferguson that has been the scene of recent demonstrations was tense and defiant on Saturday night. Dozens of helmet-clad officers holding full-length shields took position near demonstrators in the rain.

"The curfew is going to make things worse," said protestor Phonso Scott, 24. "I think the cops are going to get violent tonight, but they can't lock us all up."

The protests, which have spread to several other U.S. cities, erupted after police officer Darren Wilson, 28, shot and killed Brown a week ago as he and a friend walked down a street that runs through an apartment complex where Brown's grandmother lives.

On Saturday afternoon, Nixon and other officials came face to face with angry members of the community during a tense news conference at a church near Ferguson.

"The eyes of the world are watching. This is the test of whether a community, this community, any community, can break the cycle of fear, distrust and violence, and replace them with peace, strength and, ultimately, justice," Nixon, a Democrat, told the gathering.

Some in the crowd reacted angrily to the announcement of the curfew and said the police officer who killed Brown must be prosecuted for murder if peace is to return to the community.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough, who has faced skepticism from some elected officials and community members over his ability to handle the case, on Saturday told a local public radio station he plans to convene a grand jury within days to begin looking into evidence in the shooting of Brown.

Tensions have been high all week but escalated on Friday evening, pitting mostly black protesters against mostly white police as the demonstrators swarmed through a residential and retail district that has become a center of the unrest and some in the crowd looted a handful of stores.

Brown's family and supporters have demanded for days that the officer who shot Brown be held accountable. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the shooting for any civil rights violations, and the St. Louis County Police department also has launched a probe.

Robbery account fueled protests

On Friday, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson gave in to community pressure and identified Wilson as the officer involved in the shooting.

But at the same time, Jackson added to the community's outrage when he announced Brown had been a suspect in a robbery of a convenience store at the time he was shot.

Jackson later told a news conference that when Wilson shot Brown, the officer did not know the teen was a suspect in the robbery.

Ferguson police released a video from inside the store that shows Brown violently shoving a store clerk before he walks out the door.

The store was looted by rioters on Friday night, and on Saturday night a line of officers stood guard in front of the business as demonstrators marched nearby.

The U.S. Justice Department asked Ferguson police on Thursday not to release the video from the store, out of a concern it would roil the community further, but on Friday it was released over the objections of federal officials, said a law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity.

Confusion over killing

The police version of Brown's shooting differs markedly from witness accounts, including that of the friend who was walking with Brown at the time, Dorian Johnson, 22.

In the police version, after Wilson asked Brown to move out of the road onto a sidewalk, Brown reached into the patrol car and struggled with Wilson for the officer's service gun. Wilson, who sustained a facial injury, then shot Brown a number of times.

Johnson and at least one other witness have said the officer reached out through his car window to grab at Brown and the teenager was trying to get away from the officer when he was shot. Brown held up his hands in a sign of surrender but the officer got out of his patrol car and shot Brown several times, they said.

FBI agents were at the scene of the shooting on Saturday interviewing residents, and civil rights activist Jesse Jackson also visited the site, leading a prayer near a makeshift memorial to Brown just a few feet from where he died.

The Reverend Al Sharpton has said he would lead a rally with Brown's family in Ferguson on Sunday, even as protestors in other cities show their solidarity with people taking to the streets in Ferguson.

On Saturday, dozens of demonstrators sat down in an intersection in Seattle. In Oakland on Friday night, a crowd marched through the streets and one police officer was assaulted in the demonstration and two arrests were made, city officials said in a statement.