The Missouri State Highway Patrol will take over supervising security in Ferguson, Missouri, the St. Louis suburb that has been the scene of violent protests since a police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager, the state’s governor announced Thursday.
Gov. Jay Nixon announced that security will be overseen by Capt. Ron Johnson of the Highway Patrol after the local police response drew heavy criticism. Nixon said the change is intended to make sure “that we allow peaceful and appropriate protests, that we use force only when necessary, that we step back a little bit and let some of the energy be felt in this region appropriately.”
Johnson, who is black, said he grew up in the community and “it means a lot to me personally that we break this cycle of violence.”
“Ferguson will not be defined as a community that was torn apart by violence but will be known as a community that pulled together to overcome it,” Nixon said at a news conference.
Crowds have gathered to protest since Saturday’s shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. On Sunday night, some residents were seen looting stores, damaging buildings and vandalizing property. Since then, officers from multiple departments in riot gear and in military equipment have clashed nightly with protesters, who chant, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” a reference to witness accounts that Brown had his hands raised when he was shot.
Police have used tear gas and smoke bombs to disperse large crowds, including on Wednesday night when some people threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at officers. Video footage released from the dark streets resembled images usually reserved for warzones.
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