A protester stands with his hands in the air in St. Louis on 16. Photo by Joshua Lott/Reuters

St. Louis synagogue opens doors to protesters, leads to Twitter hashtag #GasTheSynagogue


A synagogue in St. Louis opened its doors to provide sanctuary for protesters demonstrating against the acquittal of a white policeman for the killing of a black suspect after police efforts to control the protesters led to violence.

After St. Louis Metropolitan Police officers reportedly surrounded the Central Reform Congregation on Friday night and threatened to fire tear gas at the protesters inside, a trending Twitter hashtag called on the police to #GasTheSynagogue.

The St. Louis Circuit court on Friday acquitted former police officer Jason Stockley of first-degree murder in the 2011 death Anthony Lamar Smith, 24. Stockley, who is white, shot Smith, who was black, five times after a high-speed chase.

On Friday night following the verdict, some 1,000 protesters marched through the streets of downtown St. Louis in protest of the verdict. Riot police pushed at protesters and used tear gas.

Some of the protesters given sanctuary in the synagogue took to social media to say that they were safe in the synagogue and grateful for the hospitality, which led others on social media to use the hashtag evoking Nazi atrocities.

Protesters thanked the synagogue via social media as well. “Thank you so much for opening up your sanctuary to us all. I was with two of my teens and we were gassed and hit with rubber bullets trying to flee the police. I don’t know what would’ve happened had you not thrown open your doors! Much love to you all!!” wrote one woman in a Facebook post under the hashtag “radicalhospitality.”

#radicalhospitalityThank you so much for opening up your sanctuary to us all. I was with two of my teens and we were…

Posted by Brandi Huffman on Saturday, September 16, 2017

In 2014 the synagogue, led by Rabbi Susan Talve, served as a sanctuary space for protesters after a grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Workers placing headstones back on their bases at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in the St. Louis area. Photo by James Griesedieck.

Vandalized St. Louis Jewish cemetery rededicated with help from Muslim donors


A St. Louis-area Jewish cemetery was rededicated nearly six months after more than 150 headstones were toppled and damaged by vandals.

Dozens of members of the St. Louis Jewish community and its supporters gathered Sunday at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Missouri, to acknowledge the community support while honoring those who are buried there, the local media reported.

“While God could not guard this sacred place from harm, God did send so many to repair, reclaim and rededicate,” Rabbi Roxane Shapiro of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association said at the ceremony. “Our help had no barriers and no hate, simply care, compassion and hope.”

Among those in attendance at the rededication was Tarek El-Messidi, founder of the Muslim organization Celebrate Mercy. The group, with the support of other Muslim leaders, including pro-Palestinian activist Linda Sarsour, set up a crowdfunding campaign that raised $162,000 from nearly 5,000 donors, exceeding its $20,000 goal in the first few hours.

In the wake of the attack, hundreds of community volunteers came to the cemetery to help with the cleanup and repairs, including Vice President Mike Pence and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who is Jewish and had invited Pence.

No suspects have been identified in the vandalism. The Anti-Defamation has offered a $10,000 reward for tips that lead to an arrest.

Juan M Thompson on a panel for BRIC TV in Brooklyn on Jun. 24, 2015. Screenshot from You Tube/BRIC TV

St. Louis man pleads guilty to cyberstalking in 8 bomb threats against Jewish institutions


A St. Louis man accused of making eight bomb threats against Jewish institutions pleaded guilty to cyberstalking charges.

Juan Thompson, 32, also pleaded guilty on Tuesday in a U.S. District Court in Manhattan to a charge of conveying false information and hoaxes, The Associated Press reported. In April, the former journalist denied the charges.

The cyberstalking charges are for eight threats against Jewish community centers and the Anti-Defamation League, which federal prosecutors say were copycat crimes during a wave of nearly 150 bomb threats to Jewish institutions during the first three months of this year. Nearly three weeks after Thompson’s arrest, an Israeli-American teen was arrested in Israel for allegedly making the bulk of the threats.

In Thompson’s case, the government collected evidence from about two dozen laptops, tablets and cellphones seized from his home, according to the AP.

Thompson, who previously worked as a journalist for The Intercept news website and was fired last year for ethics breaches, including manufacturing quotes, had said earlier that he had no anti-Semitic beliefs and was being framed as a black man. Prosecutors allege that the JCC bomb threats were part of a larger plot to take revenge on an ex-girlfriend.

He was arrested March 3 for the threats, which carry a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000. Bail was denied at the time of his arrest.

The FBI complaint says Thompson threatened institutions including the ADL, JCCs in San Diego and New York City, schools in New York and Michigan, and a Jewish history museum in New York City.

A visitor to the vandalized Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia views some of the toppled tombstones on Feb. 26. Photo by Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images

With few safeguards, Jewish cemeteries make easy targets for vandals


Sometime between the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 17, and the following Monday morning, vandals damaged 170 gravestones at the Chesed Shel Emeth Jewish cemetery outside St. Louis.

Beyond that, cemetery staffers aren’t sure when the attack happened. Groundskeepers leave at 4 p.m. Fridays, and the cemetery is open to the public, unstaffed, all day Sunday. An employee discovered the damaged headstones Monday morning.

Even less is known about Saturday night’s attack on the Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia, which saw at least 100 gravestones toppled. Unlike the St. Louis-area cemetery, which is surrounded by a fence and employs groundskeepers, Mount Carmel is run by volunteers, with only a sidewalk separating it from the street.

“There was nothing,” said Steve Rosenberg, chief marketing officer for Philadelphia’s Jewish federation. “It’s wide open. Anyone can walk right in. They can’t find anything that’s closed off to anyone.”

The two attacks, coming one week apart, combined with a series of bomb threats called in to Jewish community centers, have stoked fears of rising anti-Semitism in the United States and have Jewish leaders fearing that more will follow. Cemeteries, security experts say, are particularly vulnerable because they are big, sparsely staffed and easy to penetrate.

Chesed Shel Emet, with two locations in suburban St. Louis, has more than 20,000 grave plots and a staff of seven, including four groundskeepers. Mount Carmel in Philadelphia is even smaller: It has about 5,000 graves and no paid staff.

Cemeteries “are of relatively large size, and if there is a cemetery staff, recent budget cuts tend to make that staff smaller and smaller,” said Michael Trinkley, director of the Chicora Foundation, a South Carolina group that conserves cemeteries and other historic sites. “There’s hardly any night security at cemeteries anymore.”

“You can do a great deal of mischief in a relatively small amount of time, and the odds of getting caught are slim.”

Paul Goldenberg, director of the Secure Community Network, which advises Jewish groups and institutions on security, fears that cemetery attacks could become a trend like the wave of JCC bomb threats, the latest of which came Monday.

Serving in the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office two decades ago, Goldenberg investigated a wave of attacks on some 100 Jewish cemeteries over a period of seven years — including his father’s resting place. That spate, he said, was inspired by the neo-Nazi music scene.

“There’s a feeling that the cemeteries may become a place where vandals may become more proactive,” Goldenberg said. “Right now we’re concerned about copycats.”

Trinkley and Goldenberg said the most effective way to prevent cemetery vandalism is through volunteer patrols that keep the cemetery manned at night, as well as surveillance. Chesed Shel Emeth has security cameras, while Mount Carmel does not.

Goldenberg added that community members need to contact law enforcement when they see a threat, and should let police examine damaged stones before repairing a vandalized cemetery.

“People want to do the right thing and clean up and put stones up,” Goldenberg said. “They need to reconsider that until the police show up for investigation.”

While Goldenberg floated the prospect of paid security, Trinkley said many cemetery budgets probably cannot support that. Even repairing damaged stones can get pricey. Trinkley estimated that setting a toppled headstone aright could cost $500, while buying a new one can run to $4,000.

Financial help has streamed in to assist Chesed Shel Emeth, including more than $100,000 raised by Muslim activists. Online fundraising drives for Mount Carmel are ongoing as well.  Volunteers including Vice President Mike Pence pitched in to clean up the damage in Missouri, and a similar effort is being organized in Philadelphia.

Trinkley likewise advised against forbidding fences and gates. A fence is ineffective, he said, unless it’s 8 feet tall and topped by protective wire — features that can intimidate grieving families.

“At some point, if you start making a cemetery look like a fortress, you’ve defeated most religious goals of making a cemetery a place of commemoration, visitation,” Trinkley said. “You want to be welcoming so people can go to seek solace and comfort.”

At Chesed Shel Emeth, director Anita Feigenbaum has begun a security assessment on how to make the site less vulnerable to attacks. But though the vandalism happened during a weekend, she said closing the cemetery gates on Sundays in the name of safety might be a step too far.

“A lot of people can’t make it during the week,” she said.

Jewish dems pleased with Israel language on dem platform


The Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Friday released a draft of the party’s 2016 platform as “> promised by the Clinton campaign – reflects the Democratic Party’s longstanding support of Israel and Hillary Clinton’s vision for peace and security in the Middle East.

“We will continue to work toward a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated directly by the parties that guarantees Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity,” the draft reads. “While Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations, it should remain the capital of Israel, an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”

“Israelis deserve security, recognition, and a normal life free from terror and incitement. Palestinians should be free to govern themselves in their own viable state, in peace and dignity.”

The language is reflective of Clinton’s stance as expressed in a speech she “>praised the Democratic Party for affirming America’s “longstanding commitment to Israel’s security” and the pursuit of the two-state solution, and urged the Republican Party to approve “similarly strong and unifying language” in its platform “so that both platforms reflect America’s strong bipartisan support for Israel.”

Below is the language in the platform draft re: Israel and the Iran deal: 

Iran: “We support the nuclear agreement with Iran because, if vigorously enforced and implemented, it verifiably cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb without resorting to war. We reject Donald Trump’s view that we should have walked away from a deal that peacefully dismantles Iran’s nuclear program. We will continue the work of this administration to ensure that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon and will not hesitate to take military action if Iran violates the agreement.

“Democrats will also address the detrimental role Iran plays in the region and will robustly enforce and, if necessary, strengthen non-nuclear sanctions. Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism. It violates the human rights of its population, denies the Holocaust, vows to eliminate Israel, and has its fingerprints on almost every conflict in the Middle East. Democrats will push back against Iran’s destabilizing activities including its support for terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, counter Iran’s ballistic missile program, bolster the capabilities of our Gulf partners, and ensure that Israel always has the ability to defend itself.”

Israel: “We will continue to work toward a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated directly by the parties that guarantees Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity. While Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations, it should remain the capital of Israel, an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths. Israelis deserve security, recognition, and a normal life free from terror and incitement. Palestinians should be free to govern themselves in their own viable state, in peace and dignity.”

Protests return to Ferguson streets, state of emergency declared


Police in riot gear clashed with protesters who had gathered in the streets of Ferguson, Mo., early on Tuesday to mark the anniversary of the police shooting of an unarmed black teen whose death sparked a national outcry over race relations.

About 200 demonstrators, some waving flags, beating drums, and shouting anti-police slogans, marched along a street that was a flashpoint of riots that erupted last year after white police officer Darren Wilson shot dead 18-year-old black teen Michael Brown.

Police made several arrests, including nine people on Monday evening after a group of protesters briefly blocked the roadway.

Police carrying shields rushed into a crowd of protesters around midnight, many of whom started screaming and running from the area. Some protesters threw water bottles and rocks at officers, who used bullhorns to order people out of the street or face arrest.

Authorities declared a state of emergency on Monday for the St. Louis suburb and surrounding areas after police officers shot and critically wounded a man in an exchange of gunfire Sunday night, marring what had been a day of peaceful demonstrations.

Ferguson resident Roberta Lynch, 51, was among the demonstrators on Monday evening. She said relations between police and the community had improved little over the past year.

“They are doing the same old stuff, taking our rights,” Lynch said. “They need to give us our space.”

Monday's demonstrations capped a day of civil disobedience called by activists to protest against the shooting of Brown and other unarmed black men by police across the United States.

Clergy and civil rights groups led a series of protests, staging a demonstration at a courthouse in St. Louis where 60 people were arrested, including Princeton University professor emeritus and activist Cornel West, according to a protest organizer.

Police arrested dozens of protesters who blocked rush-hour traffic on Interstate 70 a few miles from Ferguson hours later, according to a Reuters witness.

The death of Brown and a grand jury's decision to spare the white officer from criminal charges led to a wave of demonstrations that boiled over into rioting and arson at times and spawned sympathy rallies across the country.

Brown's death also prompted greater scrutiny of racial bias within the U.S. criminal justice system, giving rise to the “Black Lives Matter” movement that gained momentum from similar incidents in cities such as New York, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Cincinnati and, most recently, Arlington, Texas. .

'MARRED BY VIOLENCE'

Tensions increased after darkness fell on Monday, with some demonstrators throwing objects at officers who pushed back with shields and threatened arrests. Others urged protesters on the street to maintain order.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters police would give protesters leeway to march, but said the authorities also had to maintain public safety.

“We are going to let them vent and we are going to manage it the best we possibly can,” Belmar said.

“Last night was pretty out of control at times. Unfortunately, all the good work that's happening on both sides of the street has been marred by violence,” he said.

The violence, according to Belmar, erupted Sunday when two groups of agitators apparently began shooting at each other, disrupting what had been peaceful demonstrations. At one point, a gunman darted across a parking lot and was confronted by four officers who pulled up in an unmarked vehicle.

The officers wounded the suspect in an exchange of gunfire, according to police.

Prosecutors charged the man, Tyrone Harris, who was in critical condition in a hospital, with four counts of assault on law enforcement, five counts of armed criminal action, and one count of shooting at a vehicle.

His bond was set at $250,000.

Harris's father said his son did not have a gun.

“He was running for his … life because someone was shooting at him,” Tyrone Harris, Sr., said in a telephone interview from his St. Louis-area home.

The younger Harris was out on bail awaiting trial on charges of stealing a motor vehicle, theft of a firearm and resisting arrest. He was charged with those crimes on Nov. 5 and released after posting a $30,000 bond on Dec. 19, records showed.

Activist groups, meanwhile, said the plain clothes officers who shot Harris should never have been deployed to the scene.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon called Sunday's violence “a sad turn of events.” Nixon, who deployed the National Guard to quell violence last year, did not make any mention of additional security for those rallies.

Michael Brown's father, Michael Brown Sr. said on Facebook that peaceful weekend protests were “meaningful, inspiring and successful.”

“With your support, we properly honored your friend and my son's memory,” he said.

Protester Rayna Martin, 17, who lives in the neighborhood where Brown was shot, said the violence within her community has been made worse by the actions of police.

“They kill us, they get away with it. It's crazy,” she said.

Police swarm home in St Louis suburb after ‘ambush’ of 2 officers


The shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, Mo., during a protest rally sparked an intense manhunt for suspects on Thursday and ratcheted up tensions in a city at the center of a national debate over race and policing.

President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder condemned the attack on the officers, who were treated at a local hospital and released, as a law enforcement team in tactical gear swarmed a home in the St. Louis suburb. Television images showed officers on the roof breaking into the attic with heavy tools.

Shawn McGuire, a St. Louis County police spokesman, said an undisclosed number of people were taken from the house but there have been no arrests so far. He would not confirm media reports that two men and a woman were led away.

Long-simmering tensions between African-Americans and Ferguson's mostly white police force came to a boil in August when a white policeman killed an unarmed black teenager. The shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown led to a coast-to-coast wave of demonstrations last year.

The rally at Ferguson police headquarters on Wednesday evening was called hours after the resignation of its long-criticized police chief, Tom Jackson, but activists demanded more changes. Jackson quit in the wake of a scathing U.S. Justice Department report that found his force was rife with racial bias.

Around midnight, gunfire rang out, leaving a 41-year-old St. Louis County Police officer with a shoulder wound and a 32-year-old officer from nearby Webster Groves Police Department with a bullet lodged near his ear, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said.

“This is really an ambush, is what it is,” Belmar said of the shootings, the worst outbreak of violence in the city since riots that broke out in November after the announcement that a grand jury decided against indicting the officer who killed Brown.

The shootings were “inexcusable and repugnant,” Holder said in a statement. The White House sent a Tweet that read: “Violence against police is unacceptable. Our prayers are with the officers in MO. Path to justice is one all of us must travel together.”

Belmar told a news conference authorities had possible leads, and said the shooter used a handgun and shell casings had been recovered.

“This is No. 1 priority of St. Louis County police to identify that individual or individuals,” said Belmar, who leads the police force in the county that includes Ferguson. Officers did not return fire but may in future, he said.

“I have said all along that we cannot sustain this forever without problems,” he said, referring to festering tensions in the city since Brown's death.

The shooting came less than three months after a man ambushed two New York City patrolmen, saying he sought to avenge the killings of Brown and an unarmed black man in New York. In both cases, grand juries decided against bringing criminal charges.

“We reject any kind of violence directed toward members of law enforcement,” Brown's family said in a statement. “We specifically denounce the actions of stand-alone agitators who unsuccessfully attempt to derail the otherwise peaceful and non-violent movement that has emerged throughout this nation to confront police brutality.”

Police and protesters appeared to disagree about where the shots came from, with Belmar asserting they came from the middle of the crowd gathered in front of police headquarters.

“I don't know who did the shooting, … but somehow they were embedded in that group of folks,” Belmar said.

Protesters at the scene insisted on social media that the shots came from further away.

“The shooter was not with the protesters. The shooter was atop the hill,” activist DeRay McKesson said on Twitter.

“I was here. I saw the officer fall. The shot came from at least 500 feet away from the officers,” he said.

A string of Ferguson officials quit after the Justice Department report, which found the city used police as a collection agency, issuing traffic citations to black residents to boost its coffers, resulting in a “toxic environment”. Activists want the city mayor, James Knowles, to step down as well.

Rev Osagyefo Sekou, a frequent participant in the protests in Ferguson over the last several months, said he was in the crowd when shots rang out.

“Tensions are high,” Sekou said. “We deplore all forms of violence, we are a non-violent movement. But we also deplore the findings of the Department of Justice report and the suffering and the misery that this community has endured.”

After the report, Holder said the federal government would demand police reforms in Ferguson, including possibly dismantling the department.

Knowles said on Wednesday he was committed to keeping the department intact, but Belmar, the St. Louis County chief, would not rule out the possibility that the county would take over policing in the town.

After last autumn's rioting, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon called out thousands of National Guard to patrol the streets of Ferguson and temporarily put the head of the state Highway Patrol in charge of security.

Missouri governor orders more troops to Ferguson after riots


Aiming to head off more looting and rioting, Missouri's governor on Tuesday ordered National Guard reinforcements into the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson following overnight violence ignited by the clearing of a white police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager.

Attorneys for the family of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was shot to death by officer Darren Wilson in August, condemned the grand jury process that led to Monday's decision not to bring criminal charges against the officer.

About a dozen buildings in Ferguson burned overnight and 61 people, mostly from the St. Louis area, were arrested for crimes including burglary, illegal weapons possession and unlawful assembly, police said on Tuesday. Shops were looted during the unrest.

The case underscores the sometimes tense nature of race relations in the United States. The St. Louis County grand jury's decision also led to protests in other major U.S. cities. The people who took to the streets in Ferguson seemed to disregard calls for restraint issued by President Barack Obama and others.

Police fired tear gas and flash-bang canisters at protesters on Monday night. Police said protesters fired guns at them, lit patrol cars on fire and hurled bricks into their lines.

Brown family lawyers Benjamin Crump and Anthony Gray said in a news conference the process had been unfair because the prosecutor in the case had a conflict of interest and Wilson was not properly cross-examined. They said a special prosecutor should have been appointed.

“This process is broken. The process should be indicted,” Crump said.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said he was meeting with law enforcement and bolstering the National Guard deployment to ensure that people and property are protected in the days ahead.

“Violence like we saw last night cannot be repeated,” Nixon said on his Twitter feed. His office said “the Guard is providing security at the Ferguson Police Department, which will allow additional law enforcement officers to protect the public.”

While news channels aired Obama's live remarks calling for restraint from the White House on one side of the screen, they showed violent scenes from Ferguson on the other.

“This is going to happen again,” said Ferguson area resident James Hall, 56, as he walked past a building smoldering from a blaze set during the street protests in the city that is predominately black and the police force is mostly white.

“If they had charged him with something, this would not have happened to Ferguson,” he said.

Although no serious injuries were reported, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said the rioting on Monday night and early Tuesday morning was “much worse” than the disturbances that erupted in the immediate aftermath of the August shooting.

The smell of smoke hung in the air along a stretch of West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson. The street was closed by police but heaps of broken glass and piles of rubble accumulated in front of the few buildings that had not been boarded up ahead of time.

“We see that Michael Brown's death has been spit upon by the criminal justice system here,” said the Reverend Michael McBride, an activist from California.

“Now is the opportunity for the president to really be my brother's keeper,” said McBride.

TWO SIDES OF TRAGEDY

In the city of St. Louis, where windows were broken and traffic was briefly stopped on a major highway overnight, Police Chief Sam Dotson vowed a stronger response on Tuesday night.

Schools in Ferguson and its surrounding cities said they planned not to open on Tuesday and city offices in Ferguson were also closed.

Officials disclosed the grand jury's ruling well after sunset and hours after saying it was coming, a set of circumstances that led to protesters taking to the streets well after dark.

Wilson could have faced charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to first-degree murder. Brown's family said through their lawyers that they were “profoundly disappointed” by the grand jury's finding.

Wilson offered thanks to his supporters, saying “your dedication is amazing,” in a letter attributed to him posted on Tuesday on a Facebook page for those who have rallied to his side.

Attorneys for Wilson, who was placed on administrative leave and has avoided the spotlight since the shooting, said he was following his training and the law when he shot Brown.

Wilson told the grand jury that Brown had tried to grab his gun and he felt his life was in danger when he fired, according to documents released by prosecutors.

“I said, 'Get back or I'm going to shoot you,'” Wilson said, according to the documents. “He immediately grabs my gun and says, 'You are too much of a pussy to shoot me.'”

Missouri grand jury has made decision in fatal shooting of Michael Brown


A Missouri grand jury has made a decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, a killing that sparked angry protests in the St. Louis suburb, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch's office was due to make an announcement on the grand jury, the Post and CNN reported, citing sources.

A spokesman for McCulloch did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Activist groups have pledged fresh street protests if officer Darren Wilson is not indicted in the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, while the state has been planning a massive police presence to quell violence.

President Barack Obama urged protesters to remain peaceful following the grand jury announcement, a White House spokesman said. Brown's parents, ministers and community leaders have urged sympathizers to remain peaceful, whatever the outcome.

Ferguson, a predominantly black town with a white-dominated power structure, has been on edge for weeks as residents await the grand jury's decision. Shop owners in the city, which faced weeks of sometimes violent protests following Brown's death, have boarded up their windows, and students in one area school district began an extended early Thanksgiving break on Monday.

Protesters have said they plan to demonstrate at the Ferguson Police Department and at the county courthouse in Clayton, about 8 miles (13 km) to the south, following the grand jury's decision.

Police in Clayton have placed large barricades around the courthouse and placed locks on mailboxes to prevent them being opened ahead of the announcement.

Lawyers for Brown's family say the teen was trying to surrender when he was shot, while Wilson's supporters say he feared for his life and opened fire in self-defense.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the ruling and called in the National Guard, a move that some activists called unnecessarily heavy-handed.

Nixon was en route to St. Louis on Monday afternoon, a spokesman confirmed. The spokesman declined to comment on the reasons for Nixon's trip.

NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT

The August shooting touched off a national debate about race relations and ignited nightly street demonstrations where police in riot gear, flanked by armored vehicles, fired rubber bullets and deployed tear gas to break up crowds.

Obama in the aftermath of the shooting dispatched Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson to investigate and try to restore calm in the community, where much of the population is black and the police force is mostly white.

Local and state authorities scrambled to keep a lid on the protests in the face of criticism their heavy-handed tactics were only making the situation worse.

McCulloch declined to file charges directly and instead had a grand jury hear evidence over recent months, which kept tensions simmering. In a move aimed at transparency, the prosecutor's office has pledged to release publicly evidence heard by the grand jury, where proceedings are usually kept secret.

Three autopsies were performed on Brown, who was shot at least six times. A private autopsy indicates Brown was trying to surrender, lawyers for Brown's family said. The St. Louis County autopsy indicated a gunshot wound at close range to Brown's hand.

The Justice Department has yet to release the findings of its autopsy.

Additional reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis, Carey Gillam in Kansas City and Will Dunham in Washington; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Jim Loney

Can Ferguson’s black leaders gain power next April?


This troubled suburb of St. Louis is warily awaiting the decision of a grand jury that could indict a white policeman for the killing of black teenager Michael Brown.

But African-American leaders are casting one eye beyond the decision to an election next year that might, finally, tip the balance of power in their favor.

In April, three of Ferguson's six city council seats are up for grabs and African-Americans have a chance to end decades of white domination. Two-thirds of the town's 21,000 population is black. But the mayor, more than 90 percent of the police, and all but one of the council members are white — an imbalance that has stoked racial tensions in Ferguson long before Brown's shooting in August.

In recent days, police stockpiled riot gear and businesses are prepared for trouble if the grand jury does not indict policeman Darren Wilson. A decision is expected soon. No matter what the outcome, black leaders said there is an opportunity to change police conduct and discrimination through the ballot box, despite a long tradition of low black voter turnout at local elections in Ferguson.

“People are awake now. They know who the mayor is and what kind of person he is, and they know who the council members are,” said Tory Russell, 30, a leader of Hands Up United, a local activist group.

Based on last Tuesday's turnout, winning council seats might difficult: there was little sign of an uptick in interest in local politics. Forty-two percent of registered voters in Ferguson took part in the highest profile race — the election for St Louis County executive, which was a drop of 10 percentage points from the last such vote in 2010.

That frustrates Patricia Bynes, a local African-American official in the Democratic Party.

“Every time there's an election we have to show up. I don't care if we are voting what color the trash cans are, we need to show up,” she said.

Putting up good candidates of its own will be crucial for the African-American community, added David Kimball, a political scientist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Russell and other organizers of street protests in the town have spoken to possible candidates to try to persuade them to run in April.

“We've been working on some. There are random people who we've said, 'You've got it. You don't know you got it but I know you got it,' ” he said.

THE CANDIDATE

Ella Jones, a cosmetics saleswoman, earlier this month became the first person to collect her papers from Ferguson town hall to register as a candidate for the city council next spring. Jones, who is black, will file as a candidate when the electoral process begins fully in mid-December.

A Ferguson resident for decades, Jones has hardly any experience in politics and is not linked to the street protest movement. But if elected, black council members like her might make life difficult for James Knowles, the mayor who has been pushed to the brink of quitting by African-American criticism of his police force. He does not face re-election again until 2017.

“The best thing I can say about him is that he is a work in progress,” Jones said in an interview with Reuters.

The three council members whose seats are up for election next year are all white.

Like many others in the black community, Jones sees reforming the police department as almost the only political issue in town and seeks more training for cops and an “an end to racial profiling.”

Knowles' administration has bought body cameras and dashboard cameras for police to increase transparency and announced a scholarship to help recruit more black officers since the Brown shooting. He was not available from comment about the police or next year's election.

Meanwhile, angry demonstrations are likely if Wilson is not indicted. But, ultimately, such a decision would prove the need for African-Americans to vote in strong numbers next spring, said protest leader Russell.

“It's even more reason to win power and put some checks and balances in there,” he said.

In shadow of Ferguson, group builds ties across racial, cultural lines


On the evening of Aug. 12, after two consecutive nights of clashes between police and protesters in Ferguson, Mo., Mikal Smith rose to address a community meeting in the neighboring city of Florissant. In front of Governor Jay Nixon, Obama administration officials and community leaders, Smith spoke off the cuff about his own experiences as a young black man — the constant need to be aware of his surroundings, for example, and the indignity of being questioned by the police for no apparent reason. At the end of his speech, Smith, an incoming freshman at Saint Louis University, received a standing ovation.

Smith, 18, is a recent alumnus of Cultural Leadership, a St. Louis-area organization that educates high school students about discrimination and social injustice through an intensive, year-long study of Jewish and African-American history and culture.

The program, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, teaches high school students how to work across racial and cultural boundaries to address social inequalities. With Ferguson now a flashpoint in the wake of the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, Cultural Leadership’s curriculum is being played out in the national headlines. Meanwhile its alumni are on the front lines in organizing a response.

“Our students are trained to be what we call ‘troublemakers of the very best kind,’” said Holly Ingraham, the executive director of Cultural Leadership. “They have been taking action, standing up and speaking out before, during and after Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson.”

Aaron Johnson, a Cultural Leadership alumnus from its class of 2010, is organizing a training on voter registration in St. Louis Aug. 23 and will then lead a registration drive in Ferguson. Mary Blair, a member of the incoming class of 32 students, organized a walk-out and silent protest at Metro High School in St. Louis that made the local news. Other alumni, who now number in the hundreds, have acted as runners for the community dialogue portion of the meeting in Florissant.

“I don’t think I would be the person I am today had I not experienced Cultural Leadership,” said Johnson, who is an organizer for Grassroots Organizing in Columbia, Mo., and who is working toward a Masters in Public Policy at the University of Missouri. “It was fundamental for becoming a social activist in this way.”

Cultural Leadership recruits many of its students through local houses of worship, as well as through schools and youth groups. The organization has close ties with St. Louis-area rabbis, ministers and school administrators, and those leaders often identify talented students and connect them with Cultural Leadership.

The program was founded by Karen Kalish, and was modeled after a similar initiative, Operation Understanding, in Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

Cultural Leadership was originally designed to bring together black and Jewish students to revive the historic black-Jewish alliance, which was particularly strong during the civil rights movement. It has since been expanded to include students of all faiths and backgrounds, though a significant number continue to be black and Jewish.

The curriculum, however, has remained consistent. Over the course of a year, students study black and Jewish culture, history and contemporary issues. They also learn the history of social justice movements and community organizing basics. Students attend one another’s schools and houses of worship, and gather for a three-week trip to New York, Washington and civil rights landmarks throughout the south. On past trips, students have met Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Clarence Thomas, and Georgia Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights leader.

Even students who are neither black nor Jewish say that the focus on those two groups gives the curriculum a powerful perspective on injustice.

“You find those stories in a lot of other identities’ history, and of course one huge part of it is in the partnership between Jews and African-Americans,” said Wynn Hawker-Boehnke, a Cultural Leadership alumna who is white and Christian.

Cultural Leadership recently launched a two-week summer camp for 7th and 8th graders. Rev. Shaun Ellison Jones, the chair of the Cultural Leadership board and himself a native of Ferguson, said the organization is also hoping to begin training counselors and students to lead St. Louis-area councils and peer groups focused on fighting social injustice.

But expansion requires funding, and Cultural Leadership has had to struggle to raise its current annual budget of $300,000. The organization received significant funding from the Steven Spielberg-founded Righteous Persons Foundation in its first few years, and more recently received a grant from the Natan fund. However it now raises most of its money from local corporations, foundations and individual donors. Jones says that he hopes, with the national attention on St. Louis, that the organization will be able to raise more money.

In the meantime, Cultural Leadership is gearing up for the coming school year. On Sunday, it will hold its welcome party to kick off its newest class.

Incoming student Mary Blair said that she was inspired to join Cultural Leadership, after watching her brother go through the program and become wiser and more open-minded as a result.

“It was amazing, and I can’t wait to do it myself,” said Blair. “I want to make a change in the world, and I hope Cultural Leadership will help give me the tools to do so.”

Missouri governor lifts Ferguson curfew as National Guard called in


Missouri Governor Jay Nixon lifted the curfew for the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Monday and began deploying National Guard troops to help quell days of rioting and looting spurred by the fatal shooting of a black unarmed teenager by a white policeman.

Nixon, who had declared a state of emergency for the town on Saturday and ordered that the streets be cleared for a curfew that ran from midnight to 5 a.m., said the National Guard would fall under the supervision of the Missouri Highway Patrol.

The deployment of the National Guard is the latest in a series of steps taken by authorities to end the looting and burning of stores that have punctuated protests since the shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, more than a week ago.

But retired local business owner Marshall Tucker said: “It ain't getting no better with the National Guard coming in. That'll be worse,” he said. “Tonight it's going to get really sticky.”

President Barack Obama said he told the governor that use of the National Guard should be limited and urged healing instead of violence. Attorney General Eric Holder will travel to Ferguson on Wednesday, Obama added.

“While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving into that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos. It undermines rather than advancing justice,” Obama told a news conference.

The president met with Holder earlier on Monday to discuss the Ferguson unrest. The U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI and the St. Louis County Police are investigating the shooting.

An autopsy conducted on behalf of the family of Brown showed he was shot at least six times, including twice in the head. The path of one bullet indicates the 18-year-old may have been lowering his head in surrender when the fatal shot hit, according to Brown family attorney Daryl Parks.

Results of official autopsies by federal authorities and the county are pending.


Smoke trails tear gas canisters fired into the air during protests in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 17. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Parks told a news conference that the family's autopsy showed one bullet hit Brown in the “very top of his head” and another shattered his right eye.

“His head was in a downward position,” Parks said. “Given those kind of facts, this officer should have been arrested,” Parks said.

There were no signs of struggle with the officer and no gunshot residue on the body. But the lawyers said they had no access yet to clothing, X-rays taken when the county did the first autopsy on Brown's body, or toxicology results, which the county has so far not released.

According to police, the officer involved in the shooting said he fired initially after Brown reached into his police car.

NIGHTLY PROTESTS

Darren Wilson, 28, the officer who shot Brown as the teenager was walking through a Ferguson residential neighborhood on Aug. 9 with a friend, was put on paid administrative leave and is in hiding. Police say he has been threatened and an online petition is calling for his firing.

Edward Magee, a spokesman for the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office, said the case could be presented this week to a grand jury, which will decide whether Wilson will be indicted.

The shooting set off protests in Ferguson, whose population of about 21,000 is mostly black. Thousands of demonstrators, angry that the police officer was not arrested, have filled the streets.


Protesters hold signs during a demonstration in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 15. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

The protests have been marred by rioting and looting, leaving some stores badly damaged, as well as attacks against police with Molotov cocktails, officials said

But law enforcement officials have been widely criticized for using excessive force. Amnesty International USA sent a 13-member human rights delegation to seek meetings with officials in the area and to train local activists in methods of non-violent protest.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged U.S. authorities to protect protesters' rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

According to accounts by local police, Brown and a friend were walking down the middle of the road when Wilson asked them to move onto the sidewalk. Wilson reported that Brown reached into his patrol car and struggled for his service gun when the officer fired the initial shot.

Brown's friend Dorian Johnson, 22, said Wilson had reached out through his car window to grab at Brown and that the teenager was trying to get away when he was shot. Johnson said Brown held up his hands in a sign of surrender but that Wilson got out of his patrol car and shot him several more times.

Police Chief Tom Jackson raised the ire of the Brown family and its supporters for releasing police reports showing that the teen was a suspect in the theft of cigars from a neighborhood convenience mart. The family called that a smear campaign.

Jackson said later the officer did not know Brown was a robbery suspect when he shot Brown and that the incident was tied only to Wilson's request that he move out of the street.


A woman looks into the camera during a demonstration in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 15. Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Additional reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Eric Beech in Washington; Writing by Carey Gillam; Editing by Peter Cooney

Missouri names officer in shooting of unarmed teen, cites robbery


Police named Darren Wilson as the officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., and said the youth was the key suspect in a robbery that occurred minutes before the shooting, which sparked days of sometimes violent protests.

Wilson was the officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown last Saturday, police said, giving in to pressure to identify the six-year veteran officer with a clean record, and to provide details about the investigation in order to ease tensions in the largely black suburb outside St. Louis.

Days of protests had cast a spotlight on racial tensions in greater St. Louis, where civil rights groups have complained in the past of racial profiling by police, of the arrests of a disproportionate number of blacks and of discriminatory police hiring practices.

At a news conference Friday, police released incident reports, video stills of the robbery and provided a more detailed timeline of the Aug. 9 events. The reports, based on video surveillance and witness interviews, said the events unfolded shortly before noon, with a report of a robbery at a Ferguson convenience store.

Two men, Brown and 22-year-old Dorian Johnson, entered the store and Brown became involved in a “struggle or confrontation” with someone else at the store, apparently over a box of cigars, a police report said.


An incident in a store in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9. Photo by Ferguson Police Department/Handout via Reuters

One page of the report named Brown as the “primary suspect in this incident,” describing him as being dressed in khaki shorts, a white t-shirt and sporting a red baseball hat. It identified Dorian Johnson, the friend who was with Brown when he was shot, as a second suspect.

That page of the incident report appeared to be written by a police officer whose name was redacted from the publicly released version. The officer appears to suggest he or she was able to observe Brown's body – found in khaki shorts and a white t-shirt – after he was shot by Wilson.

“I responded to that scene and observed Brown,” the officer's report said. “After viewing Brown and reviewing this video, I was able to confirm that Brown is the primary suspect in this incident.”

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said at a news conference Friday that Wilson came upon Brown at about 12:01 p.m., walking down the street not far from the convenience store, and Wilson had shot the teenager by 12:04 p.m.

Jackson did not discuss details of the actual shooting.

The police version that has thus far been provided of Brown's shooting differs markedly from witness accounts.

Police said Brown reached into the police car and struggled with the officer, who shot and killed him. Wilson sustained a facial injury, which was treated in a hospital, they said.

Witnesses have said Brown was trying to get away from the officer, who tried to grab him after telling him to move off the street and onto a sidewalk. Brown held up his hands in a sign of surrender but was shot several times, they said.

Some residents expressed outrage that police suggested Brown was a robbery suspect when he was killed.

“For them to say this is an armed robbery makes me think this is a cover up,” said Ferguson resident Milton Jackson, 37.

“I don't believe what the officer did was called for. Even if there was a robbery, it was unnecessary force to shoot an unarmed black man,” he said.

Arthur Austin, 39, another resident, said: “This is how the police operate here, they always defame the name of the victim. Michael Brown had never been in trouble so it doesn't add up. The more I hear, the less I trust what the police are saying.”

Police had held back naming Wilson for nearly a week because of fears he could be harmed amid a volatile and sometimes-violent week of angry protests that followed Brown's death.

The move to identify the officer comes after the American Civil Liberties Union sued St. Louis County and the county police Thursday, seeking copies of initial police reports of the shooting.

Civil rights leaders from around the country, community activists and protesters also demanded that the officer be identified and be held accountable for the killing.

Thousands of protesters, demanding justice for Brown's killing, had clashed with riot gear-clad local police since Saturday, but there was a marked shift Thursday to a calmer tone after the governor put an African-American Missouri Highway Patrol Captain in charge of security for the area.

On Thursday night, a small number of police mingled with the crowd, urging a healing to the racially charged situation, in marked contrast to the riot gear, rubber bullets and tear gas that had confronted protesters earlier in the week.

Just three of Ferguson's 53-strong police force are black, while two-thirds of the town's population of 21,000 are black.

Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, who was named Thursday to oversee security in the area, reported Friday that the near week-long period of unrest and angry confrontations between police and protesters appeared to be over.

Under his direction, roadblocks were lifted, and instead of using teargas and intimidation, Johnson's teams walked the streets to talk with protesters and listen to their concerns.

“Last night was a great night,” he said. “People were talking… getting their voice out.

Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, David Bailey in Minneapolis, Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Jeff Mason in Edgartown, Mass., Curtis Skinner, Jonathan Allen and Brendan McDermid in New York; Writing by Carey Gillam and Eric Johnson; Editing by Susan Heavey and Bernadette Baum

Obama urges police to respect protesters in Ferguson


President Barack Obama called on police Thursday to respect demonstrators in Ferguson, Mo., in an attempt to defuse tensions after four nights of often-violent protests over the police killing of an unarmed black teenager.

“There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting,” Obama said a televised remarks.

“There's also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protesters or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their first amendment rights,” he told the press from Edgartown, Massachusetts, near where he is vacationing with his family.

Following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in the mostly black St. Louis suburb on Saturday, dozens of protesters have been arrested, and officers in body armor have used SWAT vehicles, riot gear, stun grenades, smoke bombs, tear gas and rubber bullets to break up protests.

Since Sunday, there have been peaceful vigils and demonstrations – with protesters holding their hands in the air and chanting “hands up, don't shoot” – as well as episodes of looting, vandalism and violence.

Missouri lawmakers urged Governor Jay Nixon to step in on Thursday and change the police tactics used in Ferguson, which, they said, were causing an escalation of violence.

“My goal has been to try to move out some of the military responses that they have been embracing and see if we can't get back to good, solid police work that keeps the protesters safe,” U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill said during a visit to Ferguson on Thursday.

Nixon told community members at a church near Ferguson that he would make operational shifts so that people would feel a different tone from police on the streets. He did not specify what steps would be taken.

He was due to make an announcement Thursday afternoon.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson told reporters the police would work to “facilitate” protests and not escalate tensions, but added that police had to react to crowds that turn violent.

The tactical chief of the police operations at the protests has been the St. Louis County SWAT commander, he said.

Authorities also said Thursday they might rethink their decision to withhold the name of the police officer who was involved in the shooting.

Protesters have said a lack of transparency by police investigating the incident – including the refusal to release the officer's name – had stoked already-high tensions.

They have also called for St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCullough to be removed from the case.

Early on Thursday, a member of the Anonymous hacker activist collective, using the Twitter name @TheAnonMessage, tweeted a name, alleging it was the police officer who shot Brown.

Police and prosecutors strenuously denied that the person named was the officer involved, saying he was not even a member of the St. Louis County Police Department or the Ferguson Police. Later, another collective member, tweeting as @OpFerguson, said the name was incorrect.

Hackers have periodically disrupted the Ferguson police website and other local government sites throughout the week.

THREE INVESTIGATIONS

The shooting and protests have shed a spotlight on race issues in the highly segregated city of St. Louis and its suburbs.

Ferguson has seen a stark demographic shift in recent decades, going from mostly white to mostly black. About two-thirds of the town's 21,000-strong population is black. Still, on a police force of 53, just three officers are black.

Civil rights groups have complained in the past that police in St. Louis County racially profiled blacks, arrested a disproportionate number of blacks and had racist hiring practices.

Amnesty International called on Thursday for a thorough investigation of the shooting of Brown, as well as the tactics used against protesters.

The U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI and the St. Louis County prosecutor's office are all investigating Brown's death.

There is little clarity on what occurred during Saturday's incident.

Police have said that Brown struggled with the officer who shot and killed him. The officer involved in the shooting was injured during the incident and was treated in hospital for swelling on the side of his face, they said.

But some witnesses have said that Brown held up his hands and was surrendering when he was shot multiple times in the head and chest.

Two reporters were among those arrested late Wednesday during protests. Ferguson Mayor James Knowles pledged on Thursday that the reporters would be treated “in a proper fashion.”

Obama said “in the United States of America police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs.”

Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Susan Heavey and Bernadette Baum

Obama says Missouri shooting death tragic, reflection needed


President Barack Obama called the police shooting death of an unarmed black teenager a tragedy on Tuesday and urged a thoughtful response after two nights of violent protests, looting and arrests in a St. Louis suburb.

But early on Wednesday, a police officer shot and critically wounded a man who drew a handgun near the site of the protests, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper reported, citing a police spokesman.

St. Louis County Police Department officers responded about an hour after midnight to reports of four or five men with shotguns and wearing ski masks. They encountered “multiple subjects running,” police spokesman Brian Schellman said.

One of them pulled a gun on an officer, who fired at him, police said. The man was taken to an area hospital.

Shortly after midnight, police fired tear gas into protesters who had confronted a line of officers after a far larger crowd dispersed, Schellman said. A photograph in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch showed a protester wearing a shirt with an American flag printed on it throwing a tear gas container back at the police.

President Obama promised a full investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into the teenager's death, which has provoked outrage in the largely African-American town of Ferguson.

“I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but … I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding,” Obama said in a statement.

Friends and family of 18-year-old Michael Brown held a peaceful church vigil on Tuesday night, after his father pleaded for an end to the violence. Standing with supporters, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, Michael Brown Sr. said he wanted justice for his son but wanted it “the right way.”

“I need all of us to come together and do this right, the right way,” said Brown Sr., who wore a T-shirt showing his son's baby picture. “No violence.”

Several hundred protesters appeared to heed the calls for non-violence late on Tuesday evening, chanting “hands up, don't shoot” and “no justice, no peace” during a tense but ultimately peaceful stand-off with police clad in riot gear and flanked by armored vehicles near the site of Brown's death.

The protesters, some of whom waved signs as the group was led in chants by megaphone, had dwindled to a handful before midnight.

Also on Wednesday, a woman was shot in the head in a drive-by shooting blocks from the area where Brown was killed. Her condition and whether the shooting were related to the protests was unknown, Schellman said.

In a separate incident simmering in California, a vigil was planned after Monday's shooting death of an unarmed 24-year-old black man in Los Angeles, USA TODAY cited a Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman as saying.

Sharpton, a New York-based civil rights leader, called for peaceful protest in the wake of looting and more than 50 arrests since the shooting. Sharpton's National Action Network will pay for Brown's funeral.

“To become violent in Michael Brown's name is to betray the gentle giant that he was,” Sharpton said of the 6-foot, 4-inch (198-cm) Brown, who had planned to start college this week.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon told a packed church in North St. Louis County on Tuesday evening the community was “reeling from what feels like an old wound that has been torn open afresh.”

The activists also were demanding authorities make public the name of the officer involved. The police had said they would release the officer's name on Tuesday, but changed the plan, citing fears of retaliation, according to media reports.

Police said Brown was shot in a struggle with a gun in a police car but have not said why Brown was in the car. At least one shot was fired during the struggle and then the officer fired more shots before leaving the car, police said.

The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the racially charged case and St. Louis County also is investigating.

CONFLICTING ACCOUNTS

A witness to the shooting interviewed on local media has said that Brown had been putting his hands up to surrender when he was killed.

“There were many, many witnesses who have talked to family members and they paint a very different picture than police witnesses,” said Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the Brown family. Crump also represented the family of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen killed in Florida by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012.

The “hands up” gesture has been frequently seen at protests over the shooting. More than 100 protesters in front of the St. Louis County Courthouse in nearby Clayton on Tuesday morning chanted “hands up, don't shoot.”

Demonstrations on Sunday night turned violent, with looting and property damage. Violence broke out again on Monday night as police officers in riot gear, armed with rifles and accompanied by dogs tried to secure the area.

Residents in the low-income, mostly black neighborhood where Brown was killed say they are often harassed by police. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said the neighborhood had a lot of crime but there were no race problems.

Ferguson has seen a stark demographic shift in recent decades, going from all white to mostly black. About two-thirds of the town's 21,000-strong population are black. On a police force of 53, three officers are black.

The race of officers should not matter as long as their work is fair and professional, said Dave Klinger, a former police officer and criminal justice professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“If the officer behaved inappropriately, we've got to sanction the officer and figure out what it is that led him to do what he did,” Klinger said. “Was he poorly trained? Was there a pattern in this agency?”

Klinger said the investigation must be as “transparent as possible.”

Additional reporting by Mary Wisniewski in Chicago and Carey Gillam in Ferguson, Missouri; Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Larry King

Missouri shooting victim Michael Brown’s father calls for peace after riots


The father of an unarmed black teenager who was shot to death by police over the weekend in a St. Louis suburb made another plea on Tuesday for an end to the violence that has followed the incident, while activists demanded authorities release the name of the officer involved.

Standing with supporters, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, the father of 18-year-old Michael Brown said he wanted justice for his son but wanted it “the right way.”

“I need all of us to come together and do this right, the right way,” said Michael Brown Sr., who wore a T-shirt showing his son's baby picture. “No violence.”

Activists speaking to reporters in downtown St. Louis also called for federal authorities to take over the investigation.

Police in Ferguson, Missouri, had initially said they would release the officer's name on Tuesday, but changed the plan, citing fears of retaliation, according to media reports.

Sharpton, a New York-based civil rights leader, also called for peaceful protest in the wake of looting and more than 50 arrests since the shooting. Sharpton's National Action Network will pay for Brown's funeral.

“To become violent in Michael Brown's name is to betray the gentle giant that he was,” Sharpton said of the 6-foot, 4-inch (198-cm) Brown, who had planned to start college this week. A demonstration is planned at a Ferguson-area church on Tuesday evening.

Brown was shot to death in the back of a police car on Saturday, police said. The race of the officer, a six-year veteran who is now on administrative leave, has not been revealed.

The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the racially charged case and St. Louis County also is investigating.

Police said Brown was shot in a struggle with a gun in the police car but have not said why Brown was in the car. At least one shot was fired during the struggle and then the officer fired more shots before leaving the car, police said.

But a witness to the shooting interviewed on local media has said that Brown had been putting his hands up to surrender when he was killed.

“There were many, many witnesses who have talked to family members and they paint a very different picture than police witnesses,” said Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the Brown family. Crump also represented the family of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen killed in Florida by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012.

The “hands up” gesture has been frequently seen at protests over the shooting. More than 100 protesters in front of the St. Louis County Courthouse in nearby Clayton on Tuesday morning chanted “hands up, don't shoot.”

Residents in the low-income, mostly black neighborhood where Brown was killed say they are often harassed by police. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said the neighborhood had a lot of crime but there were no race problems.


A QuikTrip convenience store burns during a night of rioting in Ferguson, Miss., on Aug. 10. Photo by Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT

Demonstrations on Sunday night turned violent, with looting and property damage. Violence broke out again on Monday night as police officers in riot gear, armed with rifles and accompanied by dogs tried to secure the area.

The area has seen a stark demographic shift in recent decades, going from all white to mostly black. About two-thirds of Ferguson's 21,000-strong population are black, while out of a police force of 53, three officers are black.

The race of officers should not matter as long as their work is fair and professional, said Dave Klinger, a former police officer and criminal justice professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“If the officer behaved inappropriately, we've got to sanction the officer and figure out what it is that led him to do what he did,” Klinger said. “Was he poorly trained? Was there a pattern in this agency?”

Klinger said the investigation must be as “transparent as possible.”

Additional reporting by Mary Wisniewski in Chicago; Writing by Eric M. Johnson and Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Susan Heavey, Bill Trott and Eric Walsh

White supremacist executed for 1977 synagogue killing


A white supremacist was executed in Missouri for killing a man at a St. Louis-area synagogue in 1977.

Joseph Paul Franklin, 63, was executed early Wednesday morning for the sniper shooting of Gerald Gordon, who was killed outside of the Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel synagogue in October 1977 as he left a bar mitzvah. Franklin also was convicted of seven other murders throughout the United States and claimed credit for 20 deaths between the years of 1977 and 1980.

The Missouri conviction is the only one that carried a death sentence, according to The Associated Press.

The execution had been stayed Tuesday evening by two district court judges due to concerns over the drug used for the execution. The U.S. Supreme Court early Wednesday morning upheld the death sentence and the use of the drug, leading to the execution.

Franklin also bombed a synagogue in Chattanooga, Tenn., in July 1977.

Camper Ethan Kadish’s condition still critical after lightning strike


Ethan Kadish, the only one of three campers still hospitalized after being struck by lightning Saturday at a Jewish camp in Indiana, remains in critical but stable condition.

The 12-year-old from Cincinnati requires help with his breathing and needs his chest cleared, according to his family, who set up a website, Caringbridge.org/visit/ethankadish, to provide updates on his condition.

“Ethan continues to work with his medical team on recovery,” the Kadish family wrote. “We want to let all of you know that his recovery is going to take time.”

The three campers were hurt when lightning struck without warning at about 1:30 p.m. on Saturday during an Ultimate Frisbee game on the athletic  field of the Goldman Union Camp Institute in Zionsville, Ind., the St. Louis Jewish Light reported. The other two children injured were Lily Hoberman, 9, of Missouri and Noah Auerbach, 9, of Kentucky. All three campers were admitted to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

It was not raining, nor was there a storm in the area at the time of the lightning strike, Indianapolis Police spokesman Kendale Adams told reporters.

Lily’s mother, Michelle Hoberman, credited a staffer at the camp with saving her daughter’s life.

“One young man, a wilderness specialist at the camp from Pittsburgh, administered CPR and shocked Lily back to life. He was the angel who saved her,” Hoberman told the St. Louis Jewish Light. “Another young man from Cincinnati, Ohio, a college student, was there to assist him.”

Hoberman said the expected Lily to make a full recovery.

The families of the injured are setting up a fund to be used to support continued medical training for staffers and provide medical equipment and supplies, Hoberman told the newspaper.

Several hundred children in grades 3 through 12 are in residence at the camp, which is affiliated with the Reform movement.

Reform, Conservative St. Louis day schools to merge


Two St. Louis Jewish day schools, a Reform and a Conservative, have voted to merge.

The boards of the Conservative-affiliated Solomon Schechter Day School of St. Louis and the Saul Mirowitz Day School-Reform Jewish Academy backed the merger in separate votes Monday, according to the St. Louis Jewish Light. Passage required two-thirds majority of each school’s board.

The new school, to be known as the Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School, will open for the 2012-13 school year and accommodate 175 students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Cheryl Maayan, the Reform Jewish Academy’s head of school, will lead the merged entity. Maayan and William Rowe, the interim head of school at Solomon Schechter, told the Jewish Light that the new school will be inclusive of Jewish students and support their families’ choices in observance.

Hearing set to seek new Rubashkin trial


A hearing has been scheduled to request a new trial for former Agriprocessors official Sholom Rubashkin.

Documents filed Monday indicate a new hearing is set for June 15 before the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, The Associated Press reported.

Rubashkin, the former head of what once was the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse and packing plant in Postville, Iowa, was convicted of financial fraud in 2009 and sentenced to 27 years in prison.

His attorneys are seeking a new trial on the grounds that Chief U.S. District Court Judge Linda Reade, who presided over the case, was involved in planning the May 2008 federal immigration raid on Agriprocessors that led to the company’s bankruptcy later that year. Reade rejected the defense’s argument that she should have recused herself.

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