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Tensions Skyrocket in Missouri City as Protestors Defy Curfew

Police use riot control measures on unruly crowd in Ferguson, as investigation over Michael Brown shooting continues.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 8/17/2014, 11:58 AM

Riot control measures were taken in Ferguson, MO on Sunday, as hundreds of demonstrators protesting the death of Black teenager Michael Brown defied a 5:00 am curfew in the embattled town. 

At least three tear gas canisters were fired at the scene, as demonstrators demanded what they claim is the right to peaceful assembly. 

Five armored tactical vehicles approached the crowd, as officers declared through a loudspeaker "You are in violation of a state-imposed curfew. You must disperse immediately. Failure to comply, may result in arrest."

But protestors remained, shouting "No justice! No curfew!" in the face of press and police. 

Highway Patrol Spokesman Lt. John Hotz told Associated Press early Sunday that the rioting has been overhyped. 

"Obviously, we're trying to give them every opportunity to comply with the curfew," he said, insisting that the police used smoke, not tear gas.

But angry demonstrators told reporters at the scene that their eyes were left stinging from the gas, and that at least one band of protesters was armed and ready to battle police with force. 

Tensions skyrocket

America's eyes have been on the St. Louis suburb's turmoil since last week, when tensions skyrocketed between state authorities and civilians over Brown's death August 9. 

Brown, 18, was shot dead after encountering a white policeman while walking with a friend near the Quik Stop convenience store. After police revealed that Brown was unarmed at the time of the shooting, demonstrations broke throughout Ferguson over allegations of racist violence.

The exact sequence of events during the shooting remains unknown. Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is in charge of security in Ferguson, told AP that 40 FBI agents were going door-to-door in the neighborhood starting Saturday, talking to people who might have seen or have information about the shooting.

Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, has been in hiding since the shooting last week. Ferguson Police have refused to reveal information about his whereabouts, but did note that he is a six-year police veteran with no previous complaints against him.

Meanwhile, allegations of racism have been escalating over the shooting, as several prominent members of the Black community in America - including firebrand Reverend Al Sharpton - have visited the Brown family and demanded justice for the teen's death. 

The remarks have stirred up deep tensions in the Missouri suburb, causing mass demonstrations that have sometimes turned violent. Tensions only increased when the police announced that Brown had no criminal record, and after at least one eyewitness account claimed he held his hands up to show he was unarmed before being shot. 

Looting from the riots have caused at least one local store to close, and for the curfew to be implemented to keep the peace as a federal civil rights investigation into the incident continues. 

American media has heavily focused on the Brown shooting, and its aftermath, as a study of racial tensions in the US and as a comparison to a similar incident, the 2012 Trayvon Martin shooting.

Many comparisons have been drawn between Brown and Martin, an unarmed 17 year-old who was shot by 28 year-old George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, after Zimmerman claimed Martin looked suspicious because he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. 

Police initially argued that Zimmerman's act was covered by Florida's self-defense law, the Stand Your Ground law; however, after a long media circus over Zimmerman's freedom, he was eventually brought to trial for murder and manslaughter in 2013. In June 2013, he was acquitted.