FERGUSON, Missouri - 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 5am 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 US 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 centre 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 US Department of Justice is investigating the shooting for any civil rights violations, and the St. Louis County Police department also has launched a probe.