Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is deploying the state National Guard to Ferguson, Mo., to try to reestablish order in the streets as violent attacks intensified Sunday a week after the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.
Sunday morning, Nixon said the violent clashes were dissipating after he imposed a curfew in the St. Louis suburb Friday. But they flared again Sunday night with reports of protesters firing on police, throwing Molotov cocktails, looting and attempts to block roads and overrun the police command center. Police reportedly used tear gas on protesters in return.
Nixon called the attacks “deliberate, coordinated and intensifying” and announced that he had called up the Missouri National Guard to help restore “peace and order.”
“Tonight, a day of hope, prayers and peaceful protests was marred by the violent criminal acts of an organized and growing number of individuals, many from outside the community and state, whose actions are putting the residents and businesses of Ferguson at risk,” Nixon said in a statement issued Sunday night.
“These violent acts are a disservice to the family of Michael Brown and his memory, and to the people of this community who yearn for justice to be served and to feel safe in their own homes.”
Over the weekend Nixon said he was “thunderstruck” by the images of the Ferguson police’s military-style response to the first days of the unrest.
“All of us were thunderstruck by the pictures we saw — the over-militarization, the MRAPs rolling in, the guns pointed at kids in the street,” he told ABC’s "This Week" on Sunday morning. “All of that ratcheted the feelings up.”
After seeing how the Ferguson police was handling the violent clashes with protesters, Nixon said he stepped in to put the Missouri State Highway Patrol in charge of security in the St. Louis suburb.
He said the move was aimed at putting “a much different face on law enforcement there while respecting and allowing the first amendment rights to grieve and to speak.”
Capt. Ron Johnson, who oversees the Missouri State Highway Patrol, is black and grew up in the St. Louis suburbs.
“Policing is something where you’re involved with the community if it’s succeeding,” he said.
Nixon also said he was unhappy with the Ferguson police’s decision to release a video allegedly showing Brown stealing cigars from a convenience store and aggressively pushing the store clerk on his way out the door.
“We were unaware that they were going to release it,” he said. “We were unhappy the way they [did]."
He said emotions were already “raw” and the video only exacerbated tensions in the community.
An attorney for Brown’s family Friday said the release was an attempt to “assassinate the character of Michael Brown” and give some justification for the shooting.
Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson said he released the video in response to reporters’ requests.