Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/AP

Ferguson rally ends with clashes, arrests

Turmoil follows video apology by police chief over mishandling of Michael Brown’s case

Several people were arrested on Thursday night after police clashed with demonstrators at a rally in Ferguson, Missouri, where black teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer last month, news stations at the scene reported.

A number of protesters were arrested after Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson began marching with a crowd of rally-goers and a scuffle broke out near him, the broadcasters, CNN and St. Louis television station KMOV, said.

Reuters could not independently verify the reports. Representatives of the Ferguson Police Department could not be immediately reached for comment.

The latest incident comes just hours after Jackson issued a video apology to the parents of Michael Brown, following weeks of heavy criticism and calls for his ouster.

"I want to say this to the Brown family. No one who has not experienced the loss of a child can understand what you are feeling," Jackson said in the video. "I am truly sorry for the loss of your son."

Jackson spoke directly into a camera and read from a script, which was released by a public relations firm hired by the city in the wake of at times violent demonstrations related to the handling of the teen’s death. Jackson addressed Brown's parents, as well as people whom he called "peaceful protesters."

The slain 18-year-old was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. Brown and a friend had been walking down a street in a residential area when Wilson asked them to move out of the street. An altercation ensued and the officer shot Brown several times in the street. Brown's body lay on the pavement for several hours in the afternoon sun, a fact that fueled outrage in the community and nationally as pictures of his body were widely circulated on social media.

Ferguson, a mostly black community of 21,000, has seen weeks of racially charged protests following Brown's death, in which many have called for Jackson to be fired.

Some have suggested that police left Brown's body in the street for hours in order to intimidate the black community.

In the video, Jackson said "no disrespect" was intended, and the removal of the body was delayed so officers could gather evidence.

"But it was just too long, and I am truly sorry for that," he added, standing in front of an American flag and wearing not his uniform, but a short-sleeved polo shirt.

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Brown's parents, declined to comment on Jackson's apology. Brown's parents were in Washington on Thursday calling for federal legislation requiring police officers to wear body cameras to document their activities.

Protesters have pledged continued civil unrest until Wilson is arrested and charged in Brown's death. Last week demonstrators disrupted the St. Louis County Council meeting, renewing calls to remove the county prosecutor investigating the case. 

Michael Brown's family, protesters and civil rights leaders say there is enough evidence for Prosecutor Bob McCulloch to file charges directly without the use of a grand jury. They have demanded that he be replaced with a special prosecutor.

A grand jury in St. Louis County is examining the case, as is the U.S. Department of Justice. They have set a deadline of January 7, 2015 to decide whether to charge Wilson.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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