After almost a week of protests sparked by the fatal police shooting of a black Ferguson, Missouri, man, the governor — in an attempt to quell the unrest — put state police in charge.
Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday ordered the St. Louis County police stand down and said the Missouri State Highway Patrol would handle security in Ferguson, the New York Times reported.
The move was prompted by widespread criticism of the way county police interacted with protestors.
“All of us have seen some level of escalation,” Nixon said. “We feel we need to dim that acceleration — provide folks an avenue for speaking.”
Journalists covering the shooting of an unarmed, 18-year-old Michael Brown and the demonstrations and looting that followed weren’t immune to police maltreatment, according to multiple media reports.
Washington Post journalist Wesley Lowery was arrested while charging his phone in a McDonald’s just a few blocks from where Brown was shot, Lowery wrote in an article recounting his experience.
“’My hands are behind my back,’” Lowery said he told police as they escorted him out of the restaurant. “’I’m not resisting. I’m not resisting.’ At which point one officer said: ‘You’re resisting. Stop resisting.’”
Lowery said police then slammed him into a soda machine, which set off the Coke dispenser, before placing him in plastic handcuffs.
Police later released Lowery, refusing to give him an arrest report, he said.
President Obama on Thursday said police should not be bullying or arresting journalists trying to do their jobs.
“We all need to hold ourselves to a high standard, particularly those of us in positions of authority,” Obama said.
The president also chided “those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting.”
After the shooting, some 200 people gathered at the scene and began to protest. The demonstration continued into early Sunday morning, when a smaller group started vandalizing and looting area stores.
Attorney General Eric Holder met with the president on Thursday and expressed his concern over the conflict between Ferguson community members and the police. Holder also offered technical assistance to local authorities in the form of crowd control training.
“At a time when we must seek to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the local community, I am deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message,” Holder said. “At my direction, Department [of Justice] officials have conveyed these concerns to local authorities.”
Over the weekend, some St. Louis shop owners armed themselves to protect a strip mall overrun by looters. St. Louis has seen an increase in gun sales, according to CBS News and other published reports.
Both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department said this week they have opened inquiries into the Aug. 9 shooting.
That day, Brown and a friend were walking down the street when the two were stopped by an unidentified policeman.
There was a scuffle and one of the young men pushed the officer into his squad car and reached for his gun, police said. According to authorities, that’s likely when the officer sustained injury to his face. Witnesses said Brown had his hands up when he was shot multiple times, CBS News reported.
Brown’s family rejected police accounts of what happened that day.
“He was a good boy, he didn’t deserve none of this,” said Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr. “We need justice for our son.”