Police deploy tear gas to impose Ferguson curfew

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 17, 2014 at 4:00 am •  Published: August 17, 2014
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FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — One person was shot and seven people were arrested early Sunday morning as police used smoke and tear gas to impose a curfew in a St. Louis suburb where a black teen walking down the street had been shot by a white police officer.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said during a news conference that police are still seeking the person who shot the critically wounded victim and defended his department's strong strategic response that came after a midnight to 5 a.m. curfew took hold in Ferguson, Missouri. Johnson said the strong police response was precipitated by two events.

Johnson said concerns about people who'd broken into a barbecue restaurant and taken position on the roof overlooking approaching police was one strategic concern. He said another involved a man who flashed a handgun and appeared in the middle of the street as armored vehicles approached the crowd of protesters.

Johnson said someone also fired at a patrol car, but no officers were injured.

Hundreds of other protesters left peacefully before the curfew took effect in Ferguson, where 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot on Aug. 9. The shooting has prompted protests, unrest and claims of civil rights violations.

But remaining protesters — chanting "No justice! No curfew!" — refused to leave the area. As five armored tactical vehicles approached the crowd, officers spoke through a loudspeaker: "You are in violation of a state-imposed curfew. You must disperse immediately. Failure to comply, may result in arrest."

As officers put on gas masks, a chant from the distant crowd emerged: "We have the right to assemble peacefully."

A moment later, police began firing canisters into the crowd of protesters.

Highway Patrol Spokesman Lt. John Hotz initially said police only used smoke, but later told The Associated Press that they also fired tear gas canisters. He said of police efforts: "Obviously, we're trying to give them every opportunity to comply with the curfew."

Jayson Ross, who was leading the protesters toward police before the canisters were fired, said: "They got guns. We got guns. We are ready."

The unrest between police and protesters came after Gov. Jay Nixon on Saturday declared a state of emergency in Ferguson.

Nixon's curfew announcement came after tensions again flared in Ferguson late Friday night. Earlier that day, local police identified the officer who shot Brown as Darren Wilson and released documents and video footage alleging that Brown had robbed a convenience store just before he was shot. Police said Wilson was unaware Brown was a suspect when he encountered him walking in the street with a friend.

As the curfew approached late Saturday night, New Black Panther Party leader Malik Shabazz roamed the street with a bullhorn, encouraging people to leave for their own safety. Many appeared to follow his suggestion.

"C'mon you all, let's roll out," Shabazz said through his bullhorn. "Let's roll out of here, get some rest and come back tomorrow."

Crowds that were in the hundreds prior to the curfew had dwindled significantly in the final hour.

Keyon Watkins, a 26-year-old computer science worker from St. Louis, said on Saturday that if many others stayed in the street, he would join them.

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