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Curfew takes hold in troubled streets of Ferguson


Protesters march and hold their fists aloft during ongoing demonstrations in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 16, 2014. Photo - Reuters

Ferguson: A group of protesters angry at the shooting death of a black teenager by a white police officer remained on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, early on Sunday minutes past a declared curfew, as police gathered nearby in a tense standoff.

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), officials said.

The protesters remained in the street past the curfew under a downpour of rain, with some chanting, "No justice, no curfew, no peace", while others implored the crowd not to move forward towards police. Police estimated the number of protesters remaining in the street at about 150 people.

On Saturday night, the mood among hundreds of protesters on a main road in Ferguson was tense and defiant, following a number of other demonstrations in the town in recent days. 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 protester Phonso Scott, 24. "I think the cops are going to get violent tonight, but they can't lock us all up."

A running series of protests erupted in Ferguson after police officer Darren Wilson, 28, shot and killed Brown 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.

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 have a grand jury begin to look at evidence in the shooting of Brown within days.

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.

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.


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