, Ferguson, United States, Nov 25 – Protesters set buildings ablaze and looted stores in the US town of Ferguson after a grand jury chose not to press charges against a white officer who shot dead a black teen.
President Barack Obama and the family of late 18-year-old Michael Brown appealed in vain for calm after a prosecutor said a grand jury had found the policeman acted in self-defense.
The shooting of Brown back in August sparked weeks of sometimes violent protests and a nationwide debate about forceful police tactics and race relations in America.
St Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said Officer Darren Wilson had fired 12 times after getting into an “altercation” with Brown, and that the jury had found no grounds to file charges.
As McCulloch rounded off his summary of the grand jury’s decision, Brown’s mother burst into tears and the crowd began to chant: “Hey, hey, ho, ho! These killer cops have got to go.”
Members of an angry crowd outside the police station where Wilson had been threw bottles and stones. A police car was set alight and nearby stores looted.
Riot officers responded with teargas, batons and flash grenades, and running battles broke out in the streets of the St Louis suburb, with armored cars moving slowly through the area.
Looters smashed their way into a mobile phone store opposite the police headquarters and ransacked it. An AFP journalist was hurt when he was hit in the face by a hurled brick. READ: Protesters demand indictment of policeman in Ferguson shooting.
Pam Bailey, a retiree from St Louis in her 60s, said she had expected the decision. “I’ve lived long enough to know that African Americans are not considered human beings,” she said.
Protest marches began in several more US cities — including New York, Chicago and the capital Washington DC — but there were no immediate reports of unrest outside Missouri.
Outside the White House in Washington, a crowd waved signs urging the government to “Stop racist police terror.”
Inside the executive mansion, Obama made a rapidly-organized televised appearance to appeal for calm in the Midwestern town, echoing the sentiments of the dead teenager’s family.
“Michael Brown’s parents have lost more than anyone. We should be honoring their wishes,” Obama said.
“I also appeal to the law enforcement officials in Ferguson and the region to show care and restraint in managing peaceful protests that may occur.” READ: Tensions rise ahead of Ferguson grand jury decision.
His call for calm fell on deaf ears in Ferguson, where police were pelted with bricks and bottles and responded with volleys of teargas.
“It shows that our justice system is corrupt,” said a 21-year-old sales representative from Ferguson who gave his name as Josh. “There’s room for peaceful protests and there’s room for violent protests.”