FERGUSON, Missouri — Chanting "We're young, we're strong, we're marching all night long," protesters returned for another night of demonstrations over the police killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. Authorities in Ferguson said they were focusing on out-of-town "criminals" whom they blame for a week and a half of violent clashes, not on the peaceful marchers.
"We're going to stand up to them. We're not going to let them defeat us," Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who's in charge of security in Ferguson, said Tuesday night. "If they come, they can come, but we're going to stand up to them."
Tuesday night could be especially sensitive, as prosecutors plan to begin presenting evidence in Brown's shooting to a St. Louis County grand jury Wednesday. Seventy-eight people were arrested Monday night in Ferguson, and police said they came under "heavy gunfire."
About 150 people had gathered on West Florissant Avenue on Tuesday evening, with police maintaining a low-key presence. Several demonstrators said they were optimistic that the night would remain quiet.
"My hope is it remains peaceful [and] everybody remains calm," Duane Coats of Baldwin, Missouri, told NBC News. "Keep a level head ... [and] follow police orders."
Michael Staudenmaier and his wife brought their three children — ages 21, 9 and 7 — to Ferguson from Chicago because they thought it was "important to honor Michael Brown," Staudenmaier said Tuesday night. The Staudenmaiers' eldest son is adopted and African-American, so "for us, it's a very real thing," Staudenmaier said.
"We like that people are standing up to police brutality and are going to act as a community and fight back again," he said.
Debra Preitkis-Jones contributed to this report from Ferguson.