News World Explainer: Understanding the Ferguson riots

Explainer: Understanding the Ferguson riots

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What caused the rioting?

The town of Ferguson in Missouri has been rocked by violent protests and rioting over claims of police brutality, following the police shooting of an unarmed African American teenager last week.

• One shot, seven arrested in Missouri violence
• Teen killing ignites racial tension

Nineteen-year-old Michael Brown, who was due to start college this week, was shot by a white police officer on Saturday August 9 after he was found to be walking down the middle of a road, blocking traffic.

An ABC report alleges that Mr Brown and a friend stole cigars from a local convenience store minutes before the police officer confronted them.

It is unclear why the unarmed teenager was shot, with a police statement declaring that the officer was unaware Mr Brown had just been involved in a robbery.

Community reaction

The community of Ferguson, which is is 67 per cent African American, claims that Mr Brown’s death is part of a long-history of racial profiling and discriminatory arrests by the local police force, which is 94 per cent white.

Protests have been held in Ferguson for the past week, escalating into looting and violent clashes between police and the community.

In a statement, Michael Brown’s family described his death as a “brutal assassination” and “execution style murder”.

The nightly protests have been relatively peaceful, despite a heavy police presence, but last night saw tear gas being deployed and several protestors arrested.

Cornell Brooks, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said that there was a “subculture” of prejudice amongst the city’s police.

Police reaction

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson described the officer who shot Mr Brown as a “gentleman” who “never intended for any of this to happen”, according to a Fairfax report.

Missouri state highway patrol captain Ronald Johnson has been placed in charge of managing relations with the community, and has been a key figure during the riots.

Captain Johnson received several standing ovations as he addressed a rally last night, saying that his heart was heavy and that he supported the community’s right to protest.

Armoured vehicles and police dressed in riot gear have been used to manage crowds, with police using tear gas against protestors.