FERGUSON, Missouri (CNN) — A day of peaceful protests devolved into a night of Molotov cocktails and tear gas in Ferguson, Missouri.
Officers fired tear gas into a crowd of hundreds of protesters marching toward a police command post Sunday night. Authorities also struck one defiant protester with rubber bullets.
St. Louis County police said several protesters had thrown Molotov cocktails toward the officers before authorities shot tear gas toward them.
“That is a lie. It was no fight, it was no shots fired,” a very upset protester, Lisha Williams, told CNN. “The only ones who fired was police. All we did was march to the command center to fall to our knees and say, ‘Don’t shoot.’ And they started shooting.”
Officers tried to push back and contain a crowd of protesters, which included children. The crowd didn’t let up despite an impending midnight curfew.
“I’m astonished at this reversal of mood,” said the Rev. Jesse Jackson late Sunday night. “The mood was so positive.”
Indeed, the scene was a far cry from a packed church earlier Sunday, where hundreds of people gathered for a two-hour rally demanding justice for Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager shot dead eight days ago by a white police officer.
A cousin of Brown told the church audience that Brown was killed without reason.
“What I want y’all to remember is that Michael Brown was not just some young black boy. He was a human being … ,” Ty Pruitt said. “He was not a suspect. He was not an object. He was not an animal. But that’s how he was killed.”
Michael Brown’s parents — Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr. — appeared on stage at the rally at Greater Grace Church with attorney Benjamin Crump but didn’t address the audience.
“What we’re really asking for is simple justice,” Crump said. “We’re not asking for anything extraordinary. They just want what anybody else would want if their children were shot down in broad daylight.”
Crump said there would be an independent investigation in addition to the federal and local probes already under way.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson spoke to the 1,300 people in the congregation and said he had a heavy heart.
“The past 24 hours have been tough for me,” said Johnson, who took over security in the town on Thursday after what many saw as an overly aggressive police response by the local authorities. Johnson said he met with members of the Brown family and was moved to tears.
Protests had turned violent on Saturday night as well after a curfew began. One male was shot overnight Saturday, authorities said. It was unclear how old he was or who shot him. The victim was in critical condition Sunday.
Officials said state highway patrol officers didn’t fire any shots. They did fire tear gas to get to the wounded victim, Johnson said early Sunday.
Two more autopsies
Brown was shot to death August 9 by a police officer after a confrontation as the teen walked down the street. Accounts of exactly what happened when Officer Darren Wilson stopped Brown vary widely.
Witnesses said they saw a scuffle between the officer and Brown at the police car before the young man was shot. Police said Brown struggled with the officer and reached for his weapon.
Several witnesses said Brown raised his hands and was not attacking the officer.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has approved a second autopsy on Brown’s body, the Justice Department said. The autopsy will be conducted by a federal medical examiner.
There will be a third autopsy, at the request of the family.
Anthony Gray, a lawyer for the Brown family, said that high-profile pathologist Michael Baden would conduct an autopsy on the teenager’s body. Baden testified in the O.J. Simpson, Phil Spector and Drew Peterson murder trials.
“We are very focused on getting the autopsy done, getting the ballistic experts,” Crump told the Sunday rally audience.
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