Rival marches as calm returns to Ferguson

 24 Aug 2014 - 0:13

Demonstrators supporting Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson hold signs during a rally in St. Louis, Missouri, yesterday. 

FERGUSON: Demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri, gathered in intense heat yesterday to pray and mark two weeks since a white police officer shot dead an unarmed black teenager, while supporters of the officer said in a separate rally miles away that the shooting was justified.
No arrests were recorded overnight, marking three consecutive relatively calm nights for the St Louis suburb following daily unrest since Michael Brown, 18, was shot by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson on 
August 9.
Authorities had logged dozens of arrests nightly as police clashed with demonstrators in unrest that has focused international attention on often-troubled US race relations.
About 70 people marked the two weeks since Brown’s death by praying at a makeshift memorial where he was shot and launching into a rendition of “We Shall Overcome” at the time when the fatal encounter began.
Tracey Stewart-Parks, 52, who works in accounting for a health care firm, carried a sign that read “Mike Brown was someone’s son — I walk for their son.” She said something similar could have happened to any of her four sons. “All of them have had to learn the rules of driving black and they’re lucky it wasn’t them,” she said. “This has been a long time coming and I do believe we shall overcome. It’s time to rip the Band Aid off this old wound, it’s time for change.”
The St Louis County NAACP chapter also plans a march.
About 22 km away in 
St Louis, dozens of supporters of the officer gathered at Barney’s Sports Pub to raise money for Wilson’s family.
“We are here to support you, Officer Wilson, and we’ve got your back. He has been vilified in the news but his story is coming out,” St Louis resident Mark Rodebaugh said.
A woman who declined to give her name read a statement from rally organisers that said in part, “Our mission is to formally declare that we share the united belief that Officer Wilson’s actions on August 9 were warranted and justified and he has our unwavering support.”
Little information has been released about the investigation of the shooting. A grand jury of three blacks and nine whites began hearing evidence on Wednesday in a process the county prosecutor has said could run until mid-October.
On Friday night, groups of protesters marched up and down the streets of Ferguson and about 100 demonstrators, marshalled by volunteers from the clergy, held a peaceful protest in a parking lot across from the town’s police station.
“Good things happen when people calmly interact, and that is what is happening,” Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson told reporters early yesterday. The National Guard on Friday began a gradual withdrawal from Ferguson. Johnson said about 20 percent of the force had withdrawn so far.