Despite another night of violent protests in Ferguson, Mo., where seven people were arrested and one person was critically wounded after a curfew was imposed from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m., Gov. Jay Nixon called it “a solid step forward” on Sunday.
“I’m really proud of everybody’s effort last night, especially from the community,” Nixon said on ABC’s “This Week.” “With thousands of people out there, you know, only seven arrests, the majority of those from outside the area, not a single shot by a police officer. I thought that last night with the help of the community, a solid step forward was made.”
Saturday marked the seventh consecutive day of protests over the Aug. 9 killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by Darren Wilson, a white police officer.
Related: Yahoo News confirms first photos of Officer Wilson
Police used tear gas and smoke grenades to disperse a group of protesters who had defied Nixon’s curfew. Those arrested were charged with failure to disperse.
“We are trying to use the least amount of force,” Nixon said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
At a news conference early Sunday, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald S. Johnson said police were responding to reports of a shooting victim and an armed man outside a barbecue restaurant when a patrol car was fired upon. By the time police arrived, the unidentified shooting victim had already been transported to the hospital.
Johnson said he was “disappointed” that violence had broken out.
Early Sunday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder ordered the Justice Department to conduct an independent autopsy of Brown.
“Due to the extraordinary circumstances involved in this case and at the request of the Brown family,” Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement, “Attorney General Holder has instructed Justice Department officials to arrange for an additional autopsy to be performed by a federal medical examiner.
Meanwhile, Nixon said the Ferguson Police Department’s release Saturday of a surveillance video that purportedly shows Brown robbing a convenience store had an “incendiary effect” on the community.
“When you release pictures and you clearly are attempting to besmirch a victim of a shooting, shot down in his own street, a young man, and at the same time you’re releasing information … to tarnish him, there [were] a lot of folks that were concerned about that,” Nixon said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “I do think it flamed it back up and has caused us to have to deal with some of that.”
Nixon admitted the heavily armed police presence in Ferguson during the first few days of the protests fueled the heightened tensions rather than extinguish them.
“All of us were thunderstruck by the pictures we saw,” Nixon said on ABC. “I mean, the over-militarization, the IMRAPs rolling in, the guns pointed at kids in the street, all of that, I think, instead of ratcheting down, brought emotion up. And that’s why I made the unique decision to bring in our highway patrol, to have a local leader, Captain Johnson from that community in that community, which he has been, and to put a much different face on law enforcement there. And I think it has paid off.”
The governor imposed the curfew on Saturday, declaring a state of emergency.
“This is not to silence the people of Ferguson, but to address those who are drowning out the voice of the people with their actions,” Nixon said. “We will not allow a handful of looters to endanger the rest of this community. If we’re going to achieve justice, we must first have and maintain peace. This is a test. The eyes of the world are watching.”
Nixon’s announcement was met by catcalls at the press conference. (According to the New York Times, one man shouted, “We will not get sleep until we get justice for Michael Brown!”)
“People are legitimately upset,” Nixon said Sunday. “I mean, an 18-year-old, Michael Brown, was shot in the street of his hometown, and that scratches a nerve and opens old wounds.”