US police have arrested 47 people during a night of protests in Ferguson, the Missouri town rocked by violence over the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager.
Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol said protesters threw bottles of water and urine at police towards the end of Tuesday night’s protest, prompting officers to intervene after an otherwise peaceful night.
“As of 1.00am we have 47 arrests,” he told a press conference on Wednesday, adding that police had also seized three guns from demonstrators.
Johnson stressed that unlike a protest on Monday night, protesters did not fire guns at police and police refrained from using tear gas to break up the rally.
“Tonight we saw a different dynamic,” he said.
Fears that another police shooting involving a knife-wielding male might renew tension failed to materialise, after successive nights of clashes with police in the St Louis suburb.
Ferguson has been ground zero of a renewed debate about race and strong-armed law enforcement in America since the August 9 fatal shooting in broad daylight of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer.
US Attorney General Eric Holder is to visit Ferguson on Wednesday amid an ongoing federal investigation into possible civil rights violations.
A grand jury is meanwhile to begin hearing witnesses to Brown’s killing on Wednesday, amid calls for the police officer, Darren Wilson, to be put on trial for murder.
In another development, Brown’s family is undertaking preparations for his funeral, which their lawyer said would take place on Monday.
Several hundred people returned to West Florissant Avenue on Tuesday, not far from where Brown fell, expressing their outrage and demanding that justice be done.
But in contrast to previous nights, rather than firing tear gas head-on into the crowd, police with riot shields and armoured vehicles opted to assume a lower profile on the sidelines.
They finally intervened around midnight, pushing the remaining crowd – without the use of tear gas – towards a newly designated public assembly area in a former car dealership.
“I want the good people to have the ability to voice their opinions,” said Johnson, the African-American officer tasked with restoring order in the restive town of 21,000.
Mingling with citizens at the outset of the march, who insisted on their right to protest, Johnson denounced what he called “criminal elements” who, after dark on Sunday and Monday, had ignored police orders to disperse.
Earlier on Tuesday, a few kilometres away in St Louis proper, officers shot dead an agitated man who yelled “kill me now” as he rushed at them, wielding a knife during an apparent convenience store robbery.
St Louis Metropolitan Police Captain Ed Kuntz told reporters at the scene that an investigation had been launched, but, based on what he had heard, “it seems reasonable to say it was justifiable”.
Police have identified the white police officer who shot Brown dead in broad daylight on a residential street as Darren Wilson, 28, a police officer for six years.
Brown’s family wants Wilson – who reportedly has been granted leave from his duties – charged with murder for “executing” their son.
In an op-ed column in the St Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper Wednesday, Holder pledged what he called a full, fair and independent investigation.
“And beyond the investigation itself, we will work with the police, civil rights leaders, and members of the public to ensure that this tragedy can give rise to new understanding – and robust action – aimed at bridging persistent gaps between law enforcement officials and the communities we serve,” he said.
Police contend that Brown was rushing at the officer, but other witnesses say the teenager – who was about to start vocational college – had his hands up, ready to surrender.