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No arrests overnight during mostly peaceful protests in Ferguson

Demonstrators occasionally tried to block traffic and threw rocks at police, but confrontation was defused

Protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over last year's police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown ended peacefully on Wednesday morning, law enforcement officials said, marking a contrast with protests earlier in the week that were marred by gunshots, smashed windows and numerous arrests.

St. Louis County officials also said Wednesday that the state of emergency — declared on Monday — would remain in effect for at least 24 more hours. 

Tuesday was the first night since Friday to end without arrests, said St. Louis County police spokesman Shawn McGuire. Ferguson, a mainly black St. Louis suburb of 21,000 people, has had months of largely peaceful protests punctuated by nights of rioting, arson and gunfire since police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, fatally shot the 18-year-old Brown on Aug. 9, 2014.

A crowd of several dozen protesters took to West Florissant Avenue, which has borne the brunt of the confrontations, on Tuesday night. Demonstrators occasionally attempted to block traffic and threw rocks at police, but the conflict was defused, and no injuries to civilians or police were reported, county police said early Wednesday.

Larry Miller, 58, an organizer of the protest group Ferguson Freedom Fighters, said it was clear the latest round of demonstrations was dying down. He wasn't convinced much has been accomplished.

"We already know what needs to be happening is not happening," he said. "We're still bothered over the killing of Mike Brown because we still need police reform, criminal justice system reform." 

Tensions were raised Tuesday with the return to the streets of an armed militia group known as the Oath Keepers. The group describes itself as an association of current and former U.S. soldiers and police who aim to protect the U.S. Constitution, but St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar called their presence “both unnecessary and inflammatory.”

John Karriman, an Oath Keepers leader from southwestern Missouri, said members plan to remain in Ferguson through the end of the week.

The state of emergency was declared after Sunday night protests, during which officers shot and critically wounded Tyrone Harris Jr., 18, who they said fired at them. Police on Tuesday released a video of Sunday's shooting that they said showed him drawing a pistol from his pants

He has been charged 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' father, who said Wednesday that he expects his son to survive, has denied that his son had a gun. Others in Ferguson said he might not have realized that he was firing on plainclothes police officers.

Brown's death and similar police killings that followed in BaltimoreNorth Charleston, South Carolina; Cincinnati; and Arlington, Texas, sparked a year of protests and debate across the United States about race, justice and law enforcement's use of force.

A grand jury and the U.S. Justice Department declined to charge Wilson in shooting Brown. A Justice Department report found that the police department in Ferguson routinely violated the rights of black citizens, who make up two-thirds of the city's population.

Al Jazeera and wire services 

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