Ferguson, Missouri’s police chief told reporters that over 40 people have been arrested in violent protests that have rocked the small midwestern city since the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teenager on Saturday.
Chief Thomas Jackson told reporters that peaceful protesters would not be targeted by his department, and that rumors of a curfew in the city were not true. Jackson did plea with protesters to confine their protests to daylight hours.
Those that continue to protest peacefully at night are free to do so, he added.
“I think it’s a really good idea [to stop protesting at night],” he told reporters. “All the people marching and protesting are very peaceful, they have a very strong message...I understand that, I understand the anger. But there are some people that come out and after dark it does get a little dangerous.”
State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal was in the crowd and challenged Jackson’s repeated insistence that peaceful protesters would not be targeted, alleging she had been attacked with tear gas during a peaceful protest in the city Monday night.
“I just wanted to know if I was going to be gassed again,” she asked the chief. “I was peaceful, and I’m your state senator.”
“I hope not,” Jackson tersely replied before turning to take the next question.
Jackson also addressed a number of other claims circulating on social media, such as a purported photograph of a police officer identified in a caption as Michael Brown’s killer allegedly standing over his body.
“That is not the officer involved in the shooting at all,” Jackson said, adding the actual officer was removed from the scene “very quickly.”
He also denied reports that the department had video footage of the shooting, noting the police cruiser was not outfitted with a dashboard camera. Only one witness video has been provided to police, detailing the scene after Brown’s killing.
Jackson said he had not heard news about an FAA ban on flying over the city or reports that journalists were allegedly ordered to leave the scene of protests. The FAA enacted a no-fly zone over the city through August 18 at the request of the St. Louis County sheriff’s department.
He added that more information would be forthcoming as the investigation continued over the coming weeks.
“We still have witnesses coming forward…we want them to come forward and say what they saw,” he told reporters. “If the information is out there it could sway [their testimony].”
After a day of statements urging reconciliation and peaceful protest, protesters were met with a major SWAT presence in the city Wednesday night.
The city’s school district has also reportedly cancelled the first two days of school in the wake of the unrest.
The press conference was incidentally held just before an announcement that the state US Attorney’s office would open a civil rights investigation into the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, “following the facts wherever they may take us.”