31 arrested in Ferguson 'heavy gunfire'
Police came under "heavy gunfire" and 31 people were arrested, authorities said today, during racially charged protests in Ferguson, Missouri sparked by the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman 10 days ago.
"Not a single bullet was fired by officers despite coming under heavy attack (last night)," State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson told a news conference.
"Our officers came under heavy gunfire," in one area, he said, and riot police had confiscated two guns from protesters and what looked like a petrol bomb (molotov cocktail).
Demonstrations, mostly peaceful but with spasms of violence by smaller groups, have flared since Michael Brown, 18, was shot dead during an incident with a policeman in a patrol car while walking down a residential street in Ferguson on August 9.
An overnight curfew has been imposed and the National Guard, the US state militia, has been deployed in the St. Louis suburb of 21,000 people to stop looting and burning that have punctuated the protests and stirred questions about U.S. race relations.
Missouri state police with an African-American in charge, Johnson, have taken over security efforts from mostly white local police, widely accused of using excessive force against blacks, and President Barack Obama and civil rights leaders have appealed for calm while a federal investigation proceeds.
Brown was shot by policeman Darren Wilson, 28, who is now on paid leave, in hiding and under criminal investigation.
The clashes between riot police and protesters last night occurred after hours of demonstrations that were mostly peaceful.
Police had closed a roadway to traffic to provide a path for marches but said a smaller group within the larger crowd hurled bottles, rocks and petrol bombs at officers standing near armored vehicles. Police responded by firing gas-filled canisters and a noise cannon to try to disperse the throng.
There have been peaceful protests over Brown's killing elsewhere in the United States including in St. Louis, New York, Seattle and Oakland. Johnson said some of the arrested protesters had come from California and New York.