Sen. Claire McCaskill on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 17.
Sen. Claire McCaskill on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 17.
Lauren Victoria BurkeAP

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill said at a Ferguson church on Thursday that the city’s police force must be “demilitarized” following their response to recent protests. Ferguson residents demanding answers about the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown have been met with tear gas and rubber bullets from heavily armed police.

“This kind of response by the police has become the problem instead of the solution,” she said. “I obviously respect law enforcement’s work to provide public safety, but my constituents are allowed to have peaceful protests, and the police need to respect that right and protect that right.”

Witnesses say Brown, a black Ferguson resident, was unarmed when a white Ferguson police officer shot and killed him on August 9. In addition to the non-violent protests occurring since Brown’s death, nine people have faced charges for looting in Ferguson.

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USA Today reported that McCaskill also said Missouri Governor Jay Nixon plans to pull the St. Louis County police from the city. McCaskill formerly served as a prosecutor for 21 years. She is scheduled to speak with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about the situation later today.

The name of the officer who killed Brown has still not been released. Police also arrested two journalists and an alderman covering the situation on Wednesday night.