Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in Ferguson and ordered a curfew beginning Sunday at midnight until 5 a.m. in an attempt to curb the ongoing looting and protests in response to the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer last week.
Nixon, surrounded by community leaders at a Ferguson church, announced the curfew during a “press conference” that was more like a gathering of community activists. Nixon was shouted down at several points during his remarks and during the Q & A as members of the community demanded the immediate indictment of the police officer involved in the shooting and demanded that the police stand down and cease their strong-arm tactics against the protesters.
Nixon would not say how long the curfew would last and would not say whether journalists would be arrested for curfew violations. He did say there would be a “staging area” available for the media to ensure “transparency.”
Many in the crowd made it clear that the protests would continue until “justice” was meted out for the shooting. “This poor child…this 18-year-old young man was killed in cold blood. That’s why people have been in the streets,” shouted one woman from the back of the room.
A fragile peace was shattered early Saturday morning as looters again robbed businesses while police in riot gear watched, mostly without intervening. Some protesters tried to stop the looters on their own, guarding stores and businesses to protect them from theft and property damage. Police have been under fire for the use of excessive force in opposing the protesters in Ferguson, utilizing armored vehicles, tear gas, and rubber bullets to control the crowds.
While Gov. Nixon praised the “courage and resolve” of protesters who tried to stop the looting, New Black Panther leader Malik Shabazz asked for “rules of engagement” between police and protesters and said the police wouldn’t be able to enforce the curfew. “We gotta do it ourselves. They go out there, it’s over,” Shabazz said.
Congressman Lacy Clay (D-MO) said at the meeting that he has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to take over the investigation into the shooting, asking him to investigate it as a civil rights violation. “Let the Feds prosecute. You’re not going to get a fair trial in St. Louis County,” Clay said.
After unsuccessfully trying to answer rapid-fire questions from the emotional crowd, Nixon, a Democrat, eventually gave up and turned the meeting over to Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, whose rapport and credibility with the community were evident.
Capt. Johnson said some 40 FBI agents were going door-to-door in Ferguson, investigating the shooting, and trying to calm residents. He said protesters “will be asked to go home” when the curfew begins and said he has no plans to use armored vehicles against peaceful protestors.
Johnson called for patience and for level heads to prevail. “We will survive this and will make a change,” he said.