US & Canada

National Guard to withdraw from Ferguson amid calm

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe BBC's Rajini Vaidyanathan talks to protesters who say they will continue their vigil until there is justice for Michael Brown

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has ordered the National Guard to withdraw from the St Louis suburb where the police killing of an unarmed black teenager sparked days of tense protests.

Mr Nixon cited "improvement" in the situation in Ferguson, Missouri.

Protests on Wednesday night were relatively peaceful with few arrests.

The officer who killed Michael Brown, Darren Wilson, has been suspended with pay. Mr Brown's family and supporters have called for him to be prosecuted.

A grand jury panel of residents has begun hearing evidence in the case, though officials have not said when it will reach a decision.

A nationwide outcry and sometimes violent protests followed after his death on 9 August, with police in military kit clashing with protesters.

On Thursday, as the situation seemed to calm, officials said police had arrested 163 people since the protests began, many of them from towns surrounding Ferguson.

A majority of the arrests - 128 people - were for failing to disperse, according to an arrest list provided to the Associated Press news agency by St Louis County police.

A funeral for Mr Brown, who was 18, will be held on Monday.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Protests were far calmer on Wednesday night than previous nights
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Demonstrators light candles
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Capt Ron Johnson said no tear gas was used during the evening
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Police escort away a supporter of Darren Wilson during one of the night's higher tension points
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Protesters hold their hands over their head in the iconic pose of the Ferguson demonstrators

The BBC's Rajini Vaidyanathan in Ferguson reported far fewer protesters were on the streets on Wednesday evening as compared to previous nights. Our correspondent said those who did demonstrate lit candles and said prayers calling for justice for Mr Brown.

Mr Nixon had called in the National Guard, a military force established by the state of Missouri, on Monday to support police operations, amid unrest driven by anger over Brown's death and the police response.

Missouri Highway Patrol Capt Ron Johnson attributed the relative calm on Wednesday to church and community leaders helping diffuse tensions and curbing "agitators".

"Tonight was a very good night," he said early on Thursday.

He also said he believed Mr Holder's visit on Wednesday "let the community know their voices were heard", according to the St Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper.

Mr Holder, the top US law enforcement official, arrived in Ferguson on Wednesday afternoon to talk to justice department officials leading a federal investigation into the killing.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A group of religious leaders and protesters stand outside the St Louis County prosecutor's office calling for justice
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Holder attended a meeting with the local US attorney and other Missouri leaders

He also met community leaders and local students during his time in Ferguson.

Mr Holder, who is the first black US attorney general, said on Thursday, the "national outcry we have seen speaks to the mistrust and mutual suspicions that can take hold between law enforcement and certain communities."

"I wanted the people of Ferguson to know I personally understood that mistrust," he said. "This attorney general and this department of justice stands with the people of Ferguson."

He added that while he had gone to Ferguson to "provide reassurance, in fact they gave me hope".

Related Topics