Sharpton In Ferguson, Mo.: Release Of Michael Brown ‘Robbery’ Video ‘Insulting’
FERGUSON, Mo. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The situation in Ferguson, Missouri escalated Sunday night as police moved in on protesters hours before a state-imposed curfew was set to go into effect.
Police fired tear gas at protesters as some ran through the streets with their hands up, CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported.
Video has also surfaced of protesters throwing items at police, Schneider reported.
The chaos comes on the same day Rev. Al Sharpton lead a peaceful rally in the town.
Addressing a congregation in Ferguson on Sunday, Rev. Sharpton blasted the release by police of a video purportedly showing Michael Brown robbing a store shortly before the unarmed man was shot and killed by a police officer.
The remarks came one day after another standoff between police and protesters.
The first night of the state-imposed curfew in Ferguson on Saturday ended with tear gas and seven arrests after police dressed in riot gear used armored vehicles to disperse defiant protesters who refused to leave the St. Louis suburb where Brown, who is black, was shot by a white police officer a week earlier.
“Are we saying that it’s unreasonable to ask for unarmed people not to be killed by the folks who are to protect them? Is that unreasonable?” Sharpton said at the Greater St. Marks Family Church. “Have we become a society that we can’t question the deaths of people that there was no life-extenuating circumstance?”
Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said protesters weren’t the reason for the escalated police reaction after the midnight curfew took effect, but a report of people who had broken into a barbecue restaurant and a man who flashed a handgun in the street as armored vehicles approached the crowd of protesters.
Also overnight, a man was shot and critically wounded in the same area, but not by police; authorities were searching for the shooter. Someone also shot at a police car, officials said.
“We have a shooting victim that’s in critical condition that my lose their life,”Johnson said. “We had a subject standing in the middle of the road with a handgun.”
In a sign of solidarity on Sunday, protesters in Harlem stood silently with their hands up outside the Canaan Baptist Church of Christ, Schneider reported.
“I want you to know that these parents are not going to stand alone, not going to fight alone,” Sharpton said to the Missouri congregation. “We have had enough!”
The protests have been going on since Brown, 18, was shot and killed on Aug. 9 by Officer Darren Wilson. The death heightened racial tensions between the predominantly black community and mostly white Ferguson Police Department, leading to several run-ins between police and protesters and prompting Missouri’s governor to put the Highway Patrol in charge of security.
The Ferguson Police Department waited six days to publicly reveal the name of the officer and documents alleging Brown robbed a convenience store before he was killed, though Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said Wilson did not know Brown was a suspect when he encountered him walking in the street with a friend.
Police released surveillance video they say showed Brown shoving a clerk before he left the store with a $50 box of cigars.
“I have never in all my years seen something as offensive and insulting as a police chief releasing a tape of a young man trying to smear him before we even have his funeral or his burial,” Sharpton said.
“First of all, if this is the young man, y’all quit trying to exaggerate,” the Harlem civil rights activist said. “That was shoplifting, not robbery. … Robbery, you break in, stick something up. Shoplifting, you take some cigars. It’s wrong if he did it, but call it what it is.”
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said Sunday the video produced a negative reaction. He said his office did not know the video was going to be released.
“I think it had an incendiary effect,” Nixon said in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “When you release pictures and you clearly are attempting to besmirch a victim of a shooting, shot down in his own street, a young man, and at the same time you’re releasing information … to tarnish him, then properly, there was a lot of folks that were concerned about that, and I do think it flamed it back up and has caused us to have to deal with some of that.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asked federal authorities Sunday to have a federal medical examiner do an autopsy on Brown’s body as soon as possible because of “extraordinary circumstances involved in this case and at the request of the Brown family,” spokesman Brian Fallon said.
Holder is expected to meet with President Barack Obama on Monday in Martha’s Vinegard to discuss the federal investigation, Schneider reported.
The U.S. Department of Justice also has deepened its civil rights investigation of the shooting, as Johnson said Saturday that 40 FBI agents were going door-to-door in the neighborhood gathering information.
In announcing the curfew, Nixon said that though many protesters were making themselves heard peacefully, the state would not allow looters to endanger the community.
“We must first have and maintain peace. This is a test. The eyes of the world are watching,” Nixon said during a news conference that was interrupted repeatedly by people objecting to the curfew and demanding Wilson be charged with murder.
Johnson said earlier Saturday that police would not enforce the curfew with armored trucks and tear gas but would communicate with protesters and give them ample opportunity to leave. Local officers faced strong criticism earlier in the week for their use of tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters.
But as the curfew deadline arrived early Sunday, remaining protesters refused to leave the area as officers spoke through a loudspeaker: “You are in violation of a state-imposed curfew. You must disperse immediately.”
As officers put on gas masks, a chant from the distant crowd emerged: “We have the right to assemble peacefully.”
A moment later, police began firing canisters into the crowd. Highway Patrol Spokesman Lt. John Hotz initially said police only used smoke, but later told The Associated Press they also used tear gas canisters.
“Obviously, we’re trying to give them every opportunity to comply with the curfew,” Hotz said.
On Saturday, some residents said it appeared the violent acts were being committed by people from other suburbs or states.
“Who would burn down their own backyard?” asked Rebecca McCloud, a local who works with the Sonshine Baptist Church in St. Louis. “These people aren’t from here. They came to burn down our city and leave.”
Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, is a six-year police veteran who had no previous complaints against him, Jackson has said. The Ferguson Police Department has refused to say anything about Wilson’s whereabouts, and Associated Press reporters were unable to contact him at any addresses or phone numbers listed under that name in the St. Louis area.
Wilson has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting. St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch said it could be weeks before the investigation wraps up.
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