Ferguson protests: Time and rain cool tempers; hunt on for shooting suspects
(CNN)– Prayers went up, the rain came down and tensions cooled overnight in Ferguson, Missouri.
It was a far cry from 24 hours earlier, when tempers flared and two police officers took bullets in the St. Louis suburb.
Authorities changed tactics in the aftermath of the shootings. St. Louis County Police said it had assumed “command of the security detail regarding protests,” together with the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Ferguson Police remain responsible for “routine policing services” in the city.
Investigators believe they have identified two people they want to question in the shooting, and one of them might be the shooter, a law enforcement official said. Police are also trying to find anyone who may have helped the shooter get away.
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President Barack Obama, who appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Thursday night, condemned the attack on the officers, but said it shouldn’t detract from the main issue.
“What had been happening in Ferguson was oppressive and objectionable and was worthy of protest, but there was no excuse for criminal acts,” he said.
“They’re criminals, they need to be arrested and then what we need to do is to make sure that like-minded, good-spirited people on both sides — law enforcement who have terrifically tough job and people who understandably don’t want to be harassed just because of their race — that we’re able to work together to come up with some good answers.”
A call for calm came at a Thursday night prayer vigil. Clergy and others gathered.
“Our hearts go out to the families of the injured officers,” a statement from vigil organizers said. “Our prayers are with these officers, their families, and every victim of violence in our streets.”
Although the streets were calm, the call for action remained the same.
“For over 200 days, hundreds of thousands of people across the country have taken to the streets to demand change. We must not forget — Ferguson is only one example of an endemic, national problem.”
Many in the vigil returned to the nearby protests, but the crowds were much smaller than the night before and the rain seemed to put a damper on emotions. No arrests were made, police said.
There’s the manhunt. And then there’s the likelihood of more protests and the possibility of more violence.
Even though Jackson, City Manager John Shaw, Ferguson’s top court clerk and two police officers are gone or on their way out, some activists are vowing to keep pressing for change.
“We aren’t satisfied with this,” Reed said of the police chief’s exit. “It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not what total justice looks like in Ferguson.”
Jackson expressed optimism that, in his view, the Justice Department report concluded that Ferguson “can do the tough work to see this through and emerge the best small town it can be.”
But what are the prospects after Thursday’s shooting?
Protester Markus Loehrer worried that the shooting will undercut their message against discrimination and violence.
“It’s a shame that somebody had to take advantage of this great group,” he said, “to do something so despicable.”
And Belmar said it underscores the fact that, eight months after Brown’s death, the streets of Ferguson are still simmering and law enforcement officers there are on edge.
“This is beginning at times to be very difficult for any law enforcement agencies, anywhere, to really wrap their arms around,” he said. “I want everybody … to understand how difficult this is.”