Ferguson, Missouri - Small crowds staged largely peaceful protests late on Wednesday over the fatal shooting of a black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, the calmest night since riots erupted over the racially charged killing.
US Attorney General Eric Holder met the parents of 18-year-old Michael Brown and promised his department would hold a thorough investigation into a case that has reignited a debate over the justice system's treatment of African Americans.
“I am the Attorney General of the United States, but I am also a black man... I can remember being stopped on the New Jersey turnpike on two occasions and accused of speeding. Pulled over,” Holder told a community meeting in the St Louis suburb, according to US media.
A grand jury also began hearing evidence in the case on Wednesday, though protesters stepped up their demands that the local criminal investigation be turned over to a special prosecutor.
A few gunshots rang out overnight, at least one officer was hit by a bottle and police said early on Thursday six people had been arrested, much fewer than the scores detained in the past nights of riots and looting.
“We saw a different crowd that came out tonight. We didn't have as many agitators and, as I said, criminals in the crowd,” said Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, a black officer appointed to oversee security last week.
“The trend is good. Crowds were smaller, they were calm and orderly,” he told journalists.
An hour before sundown on Wednesday, groups of dozens of protesters began marching peacefully along a main thoroughfare that has been the scene of nightly demonstrations and sporadic violence, chanting: “Hands up, don't shoot.”
A thunderstorm struck just after dark, scattering demonstrators, including an angry crowd that had surrounded a couple carrying a pro-police sign.
Members of the clergy were seen in the crowd, helping direct the march and acting as intermediaries between police and demonstrators. One black female minister in a long white robe calmed a woman who was screaming defiantly, then ushered her along the route.
Holder, the first African-American to take on the role of the top US law enforcement official, met students and community leaders in the St Louis suburb.
The Justice Department has launched an investigation to whether federal prosecutors can bring criminal charges against Darren Wilson, the police officer involved in the August 9 shooting. - Reuters