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Peaceful, 'positive night' in Ferguson, Mo.; 7 arrested, police say

Ferguson, Mo., had a calm Thursday night with just seven arrests

For the second night in a row, the streets of Ferguson, Mo., were calm with just seven protesters arrested as smaller, subdued demonstrations replaced nights of unrest over the police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. 

In an early Friday morning news conference, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is in charge of police response, said law enforcement officials did not seize any firearms or Molotov cocktails. The arrests were primarily for failing to disperse in certain areas. Three of the individuals were from Detroit and four were from the St. Louis area, he said.

"It was again a positive night for the most part," said Johnson, noting no tear gas was used by law enforcement officials. He credited community self-policing for the calm.

About 75 protesters marched along West Florissant Avenue on Thursday night, at times posing for TV cameras and journalists who blanketed the area.

The Aug. 9 shooting death of Brown, who was unarmed, by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson has set off nearly two weeks of clashes between police and protesters with floods of people from all across the country descending on the town of 21,000.

On Wednesday night, law enforcement made six arrests. But earlier in the week, on Monday night and into Tuesday morning, police arrested more than 70 people and confiscated firearms and Molotov cocktails.

Brown's funeral is set for Monday. Johnson would not speculate on whether law enforcement is concerned about an increase of crowds over the weekend.

"I don't deal with what-ifs. I deal with what we had today, and today we had a good day," Johnson said. "We had a good night." 

The National Guard began to withdraw from the St. Louis suburb Thursday, released by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who deployed troops to guard the police command center after nearly two weeks of violence following the shooting of Brown. Wilson is white; Brown was black.

Nixon said in a statement that the situation had “greatly improved, with fewer incidents of outside instigators interfering with peaceful protesters, and fewer acts of violence.”

Also Thursday, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. indicated that the Justice Department may broaden its review of Brown's death to investigate other allegations of police abuses in Ferguson.

“We have been working, I think, very diligently out there,” said Holder, who spent Wednesday in Ferguson. “I got a briefing from the FBI agents and the prosecutors who are involved in this case, and I think significant progress has been made.”

Asked if the Justice Department will broaden the Brown investigation to conduct a more thorough review of police practices in Ferguson, Holder said the department had “a number of tools” it can use in police misconduct cases.

 “I’ll just say at this point that we are keeping all of our options open,” he said.

Other potential abuse cases in Ferguson include a September 2011 incident in which a mentally disturbed man died after being tased by officers, and another case in 2009, when a man was allegedly beaten by four officers, then charged with damaging government property because he bled on their uniforms.

Wilson had stopped Brown and a friend because they were walking down the middle of the street, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson has said. Police say Brown pushed Wilson back into his patrol car as he tried to get out of it, they struggled, and Wilson's gun went off inside the car. Then Brown ran, witnesses say, and Wilson got out and opened fire. Wilson reportedly has said Brown rushed at him. Jackson has said that Wilson's face was swollen from injuries suffered during the altercation with Brown.  

Brown's parents told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Thursday that they had no confidence in any investigation into their son’s death until they met with Holder on Wednesday.

 “He made me feel like one day … [investigative agencies] will regain my trust,” said Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden.

Michael Brown Sr. said that if the family is to find justice, Wilson must go to jail.

“He has his life,” Brown said. “Our son is gone.”

Since Holder took office in 2009, the Justice Department has given high priority to cases alleging abuse by large police departments around the nation, with several departments placed under federal oversight.

Federal prosecutors have won 16 settlements or federal court orders and have an additional 33 cases underway.

Last month, the federal government placed a monitor over the Newark, N.J., Police Department, which has faced brutality and discrimination complaints.

Back on the streets overnight Thursday, the atmosphere remained calm.

“It's peaceful, and that's one thing to be happy about,” said Caitlin Fair, a graduate student from New Jersey, who came to Missouri on Monday to join the protests. “Justice still must be served.”

Another protester, Mikael Ross of neighboring Jennings, Mo., said the demonstrations were not over.

"We'll keep showing up, even if it's just me," Ross said.

Lee and Hennessy-Fiske reported from Ferguson, Mo. Times staff writer Richard A. Serrano in Washington and James Queally in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Follow @kurtisalee and @mollyhf on Twitter

Kurtis.lee@latimes.com

Twitter: @kurtisalee

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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