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National Guard ordered out of US riot town

22 august 2014, 15:17

  National Guard troops withdrew Thursday from a US town gripped by nearly two weeks of protests over the fatal police shooting of a black teenager, as new details emerged about the white officer who pulled the trigger, AFP reports.

Demonstrations in the Missouri town of Ferguson cooled after Attorney General Eric Holder met Wednesday the parents of Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old student shot dead on August 9.

Brown's death ignited nearly two weeks of nighttime protests in the majority black town that frequently turned violent and stirred racial tensions.

The initial police response only aggravated the demonstrators, some of whom armed themselves in response to what they said were unnecessarily aggressive tactics by the mostly white force.

State troopers and then the National Guard were sent in to improve security, and by late Wednesday, following the Holder visit, tensions on the streets of Ferguson had eased, with police arresting only six people -- compared to 47 on Tuesday.

Late Thursday only a few hundred people braved the pressure-cooker Missouri heat and humidity for a relaxed and orderly march up and down West Florissant Avenue, where most of the protests have taken place.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said the National Guard, deployed on Monday, were no longer needed.

The Guard had been assigned only to protect a police command center, allowing law enforcement personnel to deal directly with protesters and rioting.

"As we continue to see improvement, I have ordered the Missouri National Guard to begin a systematic process of withdrawing from the city of Ferguson," Nixon said.

In Washington, the journalists outnumbered the 20 or so protesters that showed up outside the White House for the so-called "Nationwide Day of Rage for Ferguson."

The event was organized online by the Anonymous activist group, which called for similar "rage" protests in other major US cities.

  Enduring calm? 

Holder pledged a full and thorough investigation into Brown's fatal shooting, which the teenager's family branded an "execution."

Police say Brown -- who was shot six times -- was the suspect in a robbery, but muddying the waters, also disclosed that he was not stopped for that reason.

Some witnesses have said that the young man was shot while he had his hands up in surrender, while police sources and others allege that he had tussled with the white officer and tried to grab his gun.

Brown's funeral, a potential rallying point for more demonstrations, will take place Monday, while there are more demonstrations planned at the weekend in the town and in the capital Washington.

His remains have undergone three separate autopsies -- by local authorities, the family and Holder's Justice Department.

Holder, an African American, called for an end to the unrest.

"I hope the relative calm that we witnessed overnight last night can be enduring," he said.

Holder stressed that it would take time for a full investigation to take place, adding: "But I think patience is in abundance in Ferguson. (That) doesn't mean that this thing should drag on."

Poignantly, Holder added: "On a personal level, I've seen a lot in my time as attorney general, but few things have affected me as greatly as my visit to Ferguson."

  Support for officer 

One of the main demands of the protesters is that police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Brown, go on trial.

New details have emerged about Wilson, 28, who has slipped into hiding since his fateful encounter with Brown.

ABC News, quoting a source close to Wilson who did not want to be identified, reported that the officer sustained "a serious facial injury" in the incident.

Wilson, who prior to Brown's shooting had never faced disciplinary action, is not without his supporters and as recently as last February was given a letter of commendation by the Ferguson police chief for his bravery in a separate incident.

An online Support Darren Wilson campaign has drawn more than 50,000 "likes" on Facebook and $130,000 in donations, ahead of a weekend rally in nearby St Louis.


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