Missouri Governor Jay Nixon will announce that St. Louis County law enforcement will be relieved of duty in Ferguson, which has been roiled by protests after the shooting death by police of an unarmed teenager, according to Representative William Lacy Clay.
“The governor just called me, and he’s on his way to St. Louis now to announce he’s taking away St. Louis County police out of the situation,” Clay, a Missouri Democrat, said in a telephone interview. He added that Nixon may ask the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to step in.
Clay said that he has been urging U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to “take over the entire situation because we will not get justice for Michael Brown and his family and friends if the St. Louis County police and prosecutor have a say.”
Police and protesters in the St. Louis suburb are engaged in a standoff entering its sixth day in the wake of the Aug. 9 shooting of Brown. Police say the 18-year-old had fought the officer over his weapon, while Ferguson residents say Brown was shot while putting his hands up in surrender.
President Barack Obama, who is vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, hasn’t reacted publicly to what’s happening in Ferguson since Aug. 12, when he issued a written statement calling the death “heartbreaking.”
Obama was briefed last night on what’s going on there by Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser, and Holder, both of whom are also on the resort island, White House Deputy Press SecretaryEric Schultz said in an e-mail yesterday.
The president is scheduled to speak to reporters at about 12:15 p.m. New York time, the White House said.
The president had another briefing on the topic scheduled for this morning and “senior staff will continue to update the president as needed,” Schultz said.
A White House spokesman referred questions about the situation to the Justice Department. The FBI on Aug. 11 opened an investigation into the Brown shooting, with Holder calling for a “fulsome review.”
Clay said federal and state authorities have waited too long to take control of the situation.
“They are relying on the St. Louis County authorities to do the right thing,” Clay said. “Now the governor realizes that they’re not going to do the right thing.”
About 2 a.m. today, a group of more than 50 police officers in full protective gear drove three black armored vehicles to the Ferguson police department. Officers pointed guns at the crowd and told everyone to disperse immediately or face arrest. Protesters, who raised their hands and dropped to their knees, later departed, with some shouting expletives at the police.
“This is police terrorism at its finest,” said Kyra Rayford, a 24-year-old from St. Louis who was waving a sign across the street from the police department. “They’ve been using unnecessary aggression and force. They’re violating our civil rights.”
The officer’s name hasn’t been released.
Police officers in military-style regalia yesterday fired tear gas at groups of protesters, and reporters from the Washington Post and The Huffington Post were arrested.
Wesley Lowery, a reporter for the Washington Post, wrote that he was handcuffed by officers in a McDonald’s restaurant after attempting to videotape them. Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly were briefly detained, then released without charges, he wrote on the Washington Post’s website.
Marty Baron, the executive editor of the Washington Post, said he was “appalled” at how reporters were being treated.
“There was absolutely no justification for his arrest,” Baron said in a statement.
Nixon, who canceled a trip to the state fair to head to Ferguson, said he planned to urge both the police and residents to refrain from violence.
“The worsening situation in Ferguson is deeply troubling, and does not represent who we are as Missourians or as Americans,” Nixon, a 58-year-old Democrat, said in a statement. “While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law enforcement officers to protect the public, we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern.”