After a midnight curfew began in a St. Louis suburb roiled by protests following the death of an unarmed teen killed by police, police moved in to disperse a group of protesters who defied the order.
Police in gas masks were seen firing smoke or gas canisters at a crowd that defied the midnight curfew and chanted "no justice, no curfew!" It was not immediately clear whether there were any arrests. At 12:41 a.m., an armored truck approached. Police announced over a loudspeaker "you must disperse immediately," and threatened the group with arrest.
Broadcasts showed police firing smoke or gas canisters toward crowds.
Many of the protesters had left by the time the midnight to 5 a.m. curfew began. As the deadline approached, a woman from the New Black Panther Party walked the street with a bullhorn, telling the crowd: "Please, please be out of the area by 12 o'clock." Police, some with riot shields, were seen guarding businesses near the protests as the curfew approached.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and imposed the curfew Saturday, after a brief calm erupted into new violence and looting in the early morning hours. The suburb of Ferguson, a town of about 21,000, has been wracked by protests and unrest in the week since Michael Brown, 18, was shot dead by a Ferguson police officer last Saturday.
Some on West Florissant Avenue, the thoroughfare where most of the clashes have taken place, were skeptical earlier in the day whether the curfew would do more harm than good, with some calling the measure insulting. “I think it's a disgrace. I think it's unfair. No other municipality has a curfew for adults,” said Antoine Hobson.
Another man, Jeff Harris, said while he would obey the curfew said the curfew would do more harm than good. “I think it violates people's right to assemble. It's a bad idea. It further provokes these people,” he said. Others supported the move, although reluctantly. “I don't like it, but considering what happened, I understand it. It's just a few people who are causing these problems," said Marcus Johnson.
Brown’s cousin, Ty Pruitt, was among those helping to clean up business damaged in Saturday’s looting. He blasted those who have taken advantage of the situation to trash stores. “My family does not represent nor condone what’s going on here,” he told NBC affiliate KDSK. “We want answers, but this is not the way to get them. This is not the way to do it.”
“You guys say you’re doing this for my baby cousin, you say you’re doing this for justice,” Pruitt said of the looters. “What are you accomplishing? That’s what I want to know. What are you accomplishing by the ignorance you’re displaying in this community?”
The looting early Saturday morning came after Ferguson police on Friday released the name of the officer who shot Brown but also released surveillance video that appeared to show Brown robbing a clerk at a liquor store shortly before he was shot.
The officer, Darren Wilson, did not know Brown was a robbery suspect when he stopped the teen for walking in the street, Chief Thomas Jackson said. Brown’s family called the release of the video a “character assassination,” and a source with knowledge of the situation told NBC News that the Department of Justice urged against releasing the video because it would inflame tensions
The Associated Press contributed to this report.