By Kurtis Lee, Los Angeles Times
FERGUSON, Mo. — Community activism and the work of local clergy were lauded by law enforcement officials as the primary influences that led to a relatively calm night of protests overnight in Ferguson.
Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said protesters remained orderly and police did not fire tear gas or seize any handguns.
Johnson said six people were arrested — a change from the previous night when law enforcement arrested 47 local and out-of-town protesters.
“Tonight was a very good night,” Johnson, who is overseeing security in Ferguson, told reporters in a news conference early Thursday morning.
Violent clashes between police and protesters have plagued this suburban St. Louis town in the weeks since Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black male.
Johnson thanked residents of the community and clergy members for their support. Severe thunderstorms moved through the area Wednesday night, which prompted some protesters to take shelter in restaurants and parked cars.
“Even before the rain came, we saw a calm in the crowd,” Johnson said. “We saw a different crowd that came out tonight. We didn’t have as many of the agitators and criminals in the crowd.”
On Wednesday, a grand jury began hearing evidence in the case of Wilson. Some critics in the community have assailed St. Louis County head prosecutor Robert McCulloch for not pressing charges against Wilson in the controversial case clouded in racial tensions.
Local elected officials and clergy have called for McCulloch’s removal from the case, with frequent rallies in front of the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in St. Louis County. The rallies are set to continue on Thursday.
With protests calm on Wednesday night, brief confrontations emerged when a Missouri couple arrived along West Florissant Avenue with posters in support of Wilson.
“People never hear the other side,” said the woman, who would give only her first name, Dawn.
Dozens of protesters rushed toward the couple, some screaming obscenities, prompting police to form a protective shield around them and quickly escort them from the area.
“We’ll be out here every night until we get justice,” Tef Johnson, 27, shouted into a megaphone Wednesday toward police that lined West Florissant Avenue, which has become a popular gathering place for protesters.
Johnson wore a plain white T-shirt inked in black marker with the words “I am Mike Brown.”
“I do really feel like I’m him,” he said.
AFP Photo/Michael B. Thomas
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