The National Guard was ordered Thursday to start pulling out of Ferguson, Missouri, where several businesses reopened after more than a week of clashes between protesters and police.
"The situation has greatly improved with fewer incidents of outside instigators interfering with peaceful protesters, and fewer acts of violence," Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said, announcing his order for troops called in Monday to begin withdrawing.
Only six people were arrested during Wednesday night's demonstrations protesting the police shooting of an unarmed man, Michael Brown, on Aug. 9. Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson credited local clergy with keeping the peace, though a heavy overnight downpour may also have contributed.
When morning broke over West Florissant Ave. on Thursday, there were signs of commerce coming back to life on the strip where protesters have gathered nightly. McDonald's opened for the first time in two days and The Original Red's BBQ, which was vandalized the day of the shooting, also welcomed customers.
Herc Harris, 50, the manager of the barbecue restaurants, said it remained to be seen if there would be any more violent flare-ups.
"That's the million-dollar question," he said. "People just want justice. Time and again, they don't get fair justice."
Leon Bell, 65, a retiree from St. Louis, said he was on the street, trying to talk to young people, "encouraging them to keep the peace, to follow the instructions of the leaders, to stay supportive of Michael Brown's family, but follow their wishes to keep the peace and stop the looting."
Nineteen-year-old Travis Sowell, who said he was a civil rights worker from St. Louis, had the same message.
"We don't need any more outside agitators causing confusion. We're here to build leaders. Our goal is to spread peace and justice," he said.
A small group of women were handing out water, soda and food they had purchased. One of them, Leilani Washington, 51, said she thought Wednesday's visit by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had sent the right message.
"I thought it was wonderful," he said. "He is bringing national attention to the situation."
First published August 21 2014, 11:04 AM