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Protests muted in Ferguson as National Guard withdraws

Protests in Ferguson, Missouri, were muted for a third straight evening on Friday as National Guard troops begins withdrawing from a St. Louis suburb racked by nearly two weeks of racial turmoil after a white police officer shot an unarmed black teenager to death.

Protests muted in Ferguson as National Guard withdraws
Protests muted in Ferguson as National Guard withdraws

Dozens of protesters marched along a street near the site of the Aug. 9 slaying of 18-year-old Michael Brown, chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot,” while the acting police commander, a black highway patrol captain placed in charge last week, ventured out to greet demonstrators.

Clergy volunteers wearing bright orange T-shirts mingled with the marchers to help keep the crowd calm.

At St. Mark Family Church, a hub for protest organizers, activists and residents met to pray and work on plans to improve the predominantly African American community of 21,000 in the wake of unrest that has focused international attention on often-troubled U.S. race relations.

Despite a notable easing of tensions in recent days, police were bracing for a possible flare-up of civil disturbances ahead of Brown’s funeral, which is planned for Monday.

Police in Ferguson came under sharp criticism, especially in the first several days of demonstrations, for the use of heavy-handed tactics and military gear widely seen as provoking more anger and violence by protesters.

In the latest embarrassment for local law enforcement, an officer from the St. Louis County Police Department was removed from active duty on Friday after a video surfaced in which he boasted of being “a killer.”

Officer Dan Page, a 35-year-veteran of the police force and a U.S. military veteran, was relieved of patrol duties and placed in an administrative position pending an internal investigation, a police department spokesman said.

In the video, Page is seen addressing a St. Louis chapter of the Oath Keepers, a conservative group of former servicemen, saying, “I’m also a killer. I’ve killed a lot, and if I need to I’ll kill a whole bunch more. If you don’t want to get killed, don’t show up in front of me.” He also expressed the view that the United States was on the verge of collapse.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar apologized for the comments in the video, saying in a statement that while Page “has never been involved in an officer-involved shooting, the statements made about killing are unacceptable and not what we are about as a department.”