FERGUSON, United States: Missouri’s governor on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) ordered National Guard troops to help restore order in Ferguson, hours after police hurled tear gas to disperse violent protesters in the town wracked by race riots.
Ferguson has endured days of violence since a white police officer on August 9 shot dead Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old.
The National Guard soldiers will respond to the unified police command in Ferguson, Governor Jay Nixon said in an executive order.
Late on Sunday, after a day of peaceful marches, police in body armor and gas masks moved in with armored vehicles to disperse a mob about three hours before the midnight Sunday (5 a.m. Monday) curfew.
Police responded with tear gas after “Molotov cocktails were thrown,” said Ronald Johnson, the African-American state highway patrol captain charged with restoring local order, speaking at a press conference after the violence subsided.
“There were shootings, looting, vandalism and other acts of violence that clearly appear not to have been spontaneous but premeditated criminal acts designed to damage property, hurt people, and provoke a response,” Johnson said.
Looters attacked at least four businesses, including a McDonald’s restaurant and a Domino’s Pizza.
Johnson described the violence as “disobedience, preplanned aggression.”
At least two people were wounded by gunfire among the protesters, Johnson said. He did not say how many people had been arrested.
Just before 9 p.m., hundreds of protesters marched toward the police command post, and people in the crowd threw “multiple” Molotov cocktails, bottles and rockets at police.
“Based on these conditions, I had no alternative but to elevate the level of our response,” Johnson said.
Some of the marchers carried signs protesting police brutality. Many in the crowd marched peacefully with their hands up in the air, but others taunted police and threw back tear gas canisters.
“We were walking up peacefully towards the command center to kneel in protest in front of the police, to say ‘our hands are up,’” said Lisha Williams, who was in the march.
“They started firing tear gas at us out of the blue. I know what tear gas is, my face was burning,” said Williams, who described herself as an army veteran.
Governor Nixon said in a statement that he was directing the National Guard to “assist” police “in restoring peace and order to this community.