FERGUSON, United States - The top US law enforcement official will visit Wednesday the Missouri town where a white policeman killed a black teen, sparking days of often violent protests and nationwide debate on how officers treat minorities.
Attorney General Eric Holder, who is himself black, will oversee the federal response to the August 9 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, a day after the latest protest proceeded largely peacefully but ultimately degenerated as tension rose and police made 47 arrests.
Holder is to visit the St. Louis suburb amid an ongoing federal investigation into possible civil rights violations in Brown’s shooting death.
Also Wednesday a grand jury will begin hearing witnesses to Brown’s killing, with widespread calls for the police officer, Darren Wilson, to be put on trial for murder.
Brown’s remains are undergoing three separate autopsies – by local authorities, the family and Holder’s Justice Department.
In an oped column in the St Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper Wednesday, Holder pledged what he called a full, fair and independent investigation.
“And beyond the investigation itself, we will work with the police, civil rights leaders and members of the public to ensure that this tragedy can give rise to new understanding - and robust action - aimed at bridging persistent gaps between law enforcement officials and the communities we serve,” he wrote.
Guns seized, urine thrown
In Tuesday’s protest three guns were seized and protesters threw glass and plastic bottles of water and urine at police towards the end of the demo, prompting officers to intervene and make the arrests, said Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol.
Johnson stressed that unlike a violent protest Monday night, this time protesters did not fire guns at police and officers refrained from using tear gas to break up the rally.
“Tonight we saw a different dynamic,” he said.
He attributed this to a concerted effort by community leaders, activists and clergy to keep the rally peaceful and prevent it from being taken over by what he described as violent “agitators”.