FERGUSON, United States: The troubled US community of Ferguson, Missouri—scene of months of protests and racial tension—was on a knife edge again on Thursday (Friday in Manila) after two police officers were shot.
Police launched a manhunt, raiding a brick bungalow four blocks from the Ferguson police station and municipal court where the shooting occurred amid a late-night demonstration on Wednesday (Friday in Manila).
Three people were taken in for questioning, but not arrested, St. Louis news media reported, as a $10,000 reward was posted for information leading to the shooter.
President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder were quick to denounce the “ambush,” which threatened to derail efforts to calm nerves in the mainly African-American suburb of 21,000.
Speaking on a late night TV talk show, Obama said the shooting was inexcusable and detracted from people who demonstrate peacefully against mistreatment by police.
“They’re criminals. They need to be arrested,” the president said.
“And then what we need to do is to make sure that like-minded, good-spirited people on both sides—law enforcement who have a terrifically tough job, and people understandably don’t want to be stopped and harassed just because of their race, but were able to work together to come up with some answers,” Obama added.
Last year, rioting erupted in Ferguson and protests spread to several US cities after a white police officer shot dead an unarmed black teenager, igniting a fierce national debate about race and law enforcement.
Then last week, Holder’s Justice Department said investigators had found evidence of deep-seated institutional racism in the city’s government and in the overwhelmingly white police force.
Obama said on the show that protesters in Ferguson has legitimate grievances.
“African-Americans were being stopped disproportionately, mainly so the city could raise money,” he added.
About 100 youthful protesters, black and white, returned on Thursday night to the Ferguson police station, chanting slogans and occasionally blocking the main street.
They were monitored by two to three dozen police officers and a larger number of reporters and cameramen, as a light rain began to fall.
Ferguson leaders have vowed to reform, and several have quit, but officials expressed concern that Wednesday night’s shooting—in which one of the officers was shot in the face—will only deepen the bitter divide in the community.
“What happened last night was a pure ambush,” Holder said. “This was not someone trying to bring healing to Ferguson, this was a damn punk, a punk who was trying to sow discord,” he added.
Obama, who on Saturday marked the anniversary of the Selma civil rights march with a major address on the United States’ recent history of racism, was also angered.
“Violence against police is unacceptable. Our prayers are with the officers,” he wrote on Twitter, warning that the “path to justice is one all of us must travel together,” he added. AFP