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Missouri governor calls off curfew in Ferguson

FERGUSON, Mo. — Gov. Jay Nixon lifted a curfew in this embattled city on Monday, hours after deploying the Missouri National Guard, as officials struggle to control unrest that has paralyzed the community since an unarmed black teenager was killed by a white police officer.

The role of the National Guard will be limited, Nixon said in a statement. Troops will protect the police command center here, which the authorities said came under a coordinated attack Sunday night.

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“With these additional resources in place,” Nixon said, “the Missouri State Highway Patrol and local law enforcement will continue to respond appropriately to incidents of lawlessness and violence, and protect the civil rights of all peaceful citizens to make their voices heard.”

The authorities have been stymied in their efforts to quell the unrest in the street caused by the death of the teenager, Michael Brown, on Aug. 9. Nixon turned to the State Highway Patrol to oversee crowd control Thursday after local officials were criticized for heavy-handed tactics that included the use of tear gas and military-style vehicles. The state’s less confrontational approach seemed to calm the crowds for one night, but tensions between the police and protesters have since surpassed levels seen earlier.

On the street, law enforcement officials indicated Monday that they would take a different tack with protesters. People will not be allowed to congregate on the major thoroughfare that has been the center of the protests here. They could walk, officials said, but not be stationary.

At midmorning Monday, about a dozen county and state police officers told a small group that it could not gather at the QuikTrip convenience store that had been burned last week during protests over the death of Brown, 18.

People could walk up and down the street to protest, the officers told the group, which included the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, but they could not stand in one place.

“We’re not doing any more static protesting,” one state trooper said.

“Here’s the biggest reason we’re asking people to move,” another trooper said. “So we can take care of it before it gets to that stage,” he said, referring to the violent clashes of previous nights.

The move was met with angry protests from those assembled, who stayed but milled around a bit.

“In its most generous way, it’s alienation,” Jackson said. “That will just compound the problem.”

Schools in the area were also closed Monday.

On Sunday night, hours before the start of the second night of a mandatory curfew Nixon had ordered Saturday, police officers came under assault from gunfire and firebombs and responded with their largest show of force so far.

Using a barrage of tear gas and smoke canisters, and firing rubber bullets and deploying hundreds of officers in riot gear to sweep the streets of protesters, the law enforcement officials had the situation largely under control by the time the curfew began at midnight.

Protesters said that the police acted without provocation. But at a news conference about an hour into the curfew, Capt. Ronald S. Johnson, the Missouri State Highway Patrol officer brought in by the governor to take over security here, blamed “premeditated criminal acts” that were intended to provoke the police.

“We had to act to protect lives and property,” he said.

Johnson said that some demonstrators throughout Ferguson had opened fire on the police, hurled firebombs and looted and vandalized businesses.

It appeared that an attempted attack by some protesters on the shopping center the police have used as a command center prompted the most severe response from the authorities.

Johnson said that at 8:56 p.m., hundreds of protesters had descended upon the area of the command post. Soon, he said, “multiple Molotov cocktails were thrown at police.” The police responded with tear gas.

The captain said that after that episode, the police had received reports that a McDonald’s restaurant had been seized by the demonstrators. Meanwhile, police officers were being targeted with bottles, Johnson told reporters.

“Based on these conditions, I had no alternative but to elevate the level of our response,” he said.

A spokesman for the Highway Patrol said the authorities had made seven or eight arrests, and Johnson said he believed three people — none of them police officers — had been injured in the outbreak of violence.

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