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Ferguson protests dwindle after two nights of unrest

Protesters stayed indoors in Midwest and East Coast, though hundreds demonstrated in California

The streets of Ferguson, Missouri were mostly quiet Wednesday night, after two days of racially charged unrest sparked by a grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson — a white police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

On the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday, wintry weather kept many indoors across the state and other parts of the Midwest and the East Coast, though hundreds demonstrated against the killing in the California cities of Oakland, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Protesters also held up banners reading "Solidarity with Ferguson" and "Black Lives Matter" outside the U.S. embassy in London. Among those who attended was the family of Mark Duggan, who was shot dead by police in north London in 2011, prompting Britain's worst civil unrest in decades.

Ferguson first erupted into protests after Wilson shot dead 18-year-old Brown on Aug. 9. The death also triggered a nationwide discussion on racial inequality and police brutality in the U.S. Wilson was placed on administrative leave, but said he acted in self-defense, out of fear for his life.

The case has exposed long-running strains in Ferguson between its predominantly black residents and its mostly white politicians and police. Sixty-three percent of Ferguson's 21,000 residents are African-American and 34 percent white, according to 2010 U.S. Census data. Ferguson's mayor, James Knowles, is white, as are most of its city council members. Only three of Ferguson’s over 50 police officers are black; the rest are white.

A 2013 state attorney general's report found more than 85 percent of motorists pulled over in the city were black, and the arrest rate for black people was twice that for white people.

The Justice Department has been investigating whether to bring federal civil rights charges against Wilson and the Ferguson police department.

"The sad fact is that it brings up issues that we've been struggling with in this country for a long, long time," said Matthew Green, an associate professor of politics at the Catholic University of America.

Late on Wednesday, a few dozen protesters huddled in falling snow outside Ferguson's police headquarters, in sharp contrast to the scenes of arson, looting, sporadic gunfire and clashes with police on Monday and, to a lesser extent, Tuesday.

Businesses were boarded-up or burned along a mile-long stretch of West Florissant Avenue, which bore the brunt of Monday’s lawlessness, and downtown streets between the police department and City Hall.

Demonstrations spread to a dozen or more major U.S. cities by Tuesday, culminating in at least 400 arrests nationwide.

Several hundred protesters blocked traffic as they marched through downtown Los Angeles, yelling, "No justice, no peace" on Wednesday. Police said more than 130 men and women were arrested for disobeying orders to disperse.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) reported about 313 arrests between Tuesday and Wednesday related to protests in solidarity with Ferguson. The vast majority of protestors were arrested for “failing to disperse” or “disturbing the peace,” the LAPD said.

At least 200 people ran through streets in Oakland, California, spraying walls, billboards and bus stops with graffiti and smashing storefront windows, before they were confronted by police near City Hall.

In San Diego, about 300 protesters with a heavy police escort marched peacefully through the City Heights district chanting, "Ferguson, we've got your back."

In and around Ferguson, around 2,200 National Guard troops called out by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon were backing up local police.

"The ramped-up presence and action of the Missouri National Guard has been helpful," Nixon said on Wednesday after facing criticism for not deploying enough troops in the immediate hours after the grand jury's decision was announced Monday evening.

Authorities said on Wednesday that a 20-year-old man whose body was found inside a car in Ferguson after Monday night's riots had been intentionally set on fire.

The death of Deandre Joshua of University City is being investigated as a homicide, but police have not said whether it's connected to the violence that broke out after the grand jury announcement.

Joshua, who is black, was found Tuesday morning at the wheel of a car parked near the apartment complex where Brown was killed. An autopsy determined that he was shot once in the head.

President Barack Obama made cautious comments immediately after the Ferguson shooting, but on Monday said that deep distrust existed between police and minorities and that "communities of color aren't just making these problems up." Still he called for protests to remain lawful.

In the wake of Monday’s violence, black empowerment activists have said that there is no reason to abide by a legal system they say works not for, but against black people.

Al Jazeera and wire services 

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