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Updated: Sun, 17 Aug 2014 12:18:26 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Michael Brown shooting: Police deploy tear gas to impose Ferguson curfew



Protesters gesture as they stand in the street in defiance of a midnight curfew meant to stem ongoing demonstrations in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 17, 2014. The group of protesters angry at the shooting death of Brown, a black teenager, by a white police officer remained on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, early on Sunday minutes past the declared curfew, as police began to clear the streets in a tense standoff. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (© UNITED STATES - Tags: CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW)

Protesters gesture as they stand in the street in defiance of a midnight curfew meant to stem ongoing demonstrations in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri August 17, 2014. The group of protesters angry at the shooting death of Brown, a black teenager, by a white police officer remained on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, early on Sunday minutes past the declared curfew, as police began to clear the streets in a tense standoff. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES - Tags: CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW) TEMPLATE OUT - RTR42OVQ Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Seven people were arrested early Sunday morning as police used smoke and tear gas against protesters who defied a curfew in a St. Louis suburb where a black teen walking down the street had been shot by a white police officer.

Police moved armoured vehicles down the street in in Ferguson, Mo., just after the start of the curfew Sunday. They used smoke and tear gas on protesters who refused to move back, essentially ending the confrontation nearly an hour after the midnight curfew. Seven people were arrested for failure to disperse.

Saturday marked a week since a white Ferguson officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9. The shooting ignited racial tension in the mostly black suburb and has led to looting and several run-ins between police and protesters.

Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said the timing of police action on Sunday was coincidental.

Police received a report that people broke into a barbecue restaurant and some were on the roof — creating a potential danger for officers trying to disperse the protesters. Police were responding to that report — not the fact that protesters were still on the street after curfew, Johnson said.

Things got worse when a man with a handgun went into the street as police were nearing the restaurant. He ran away, but there was plenty of violence. A man was shot and critically wounded in the same area. Police were searching for the shooter. Someone shot at a police car — it wasn't clear if it was hit.

Hundreds of other protesters left peacefully before the curfew took effect. But remaining protesters — chanting "No justice! No curfew!" — refused to leave the area.

As officers put on gas masks, a chant from the distant crowd emerged: "We have the right to assemble peacefully." A moment later, police began firing canisters into the crowd of protesters.

Highway Patrol Spokesman Lt. John Hotz initially said police only used smoke, but later told The Associated Press that they also fired tear gas canisters.

Jayson Ross, who was leading the protesters toward police before the canisters were fired, said: "They got guns. We got guns. We are ready."

Gov. Jay Nixon on Saturday declared a state of emergency in Ferguson.

The length of the curfew would be "judged by the community," Nixon said on CNN's State of the Union. He said Saturday's curfew helped maintain peace.

The curfew announcement came after tensions again flared in Ferguson late Friday night. Earlier that day, local police identified the officer who shot Brown as Darren Wilson and released documents and video footage alleging that Brown had robbed a convenience store just before he was shot. Police said Wilson was unaware Brown was a suspect when he encountered him walking in the street with a friend.

Nixon said the U.S. Department of Justice is widening its civil rights investigation of the shooting.

Shooting investigation could last weeks

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asked federal authorities on Sunday to have a federal medical examiner do an autopsy on Brown's body as soon as possible because of "extraordinary circumstances involved in this case and at the request of the Brown family," spokesman Brian Fallon said.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is in charge of security in Ferguson, said 40 FBI agents were going door-to-door in the neighbourhood starting Saturday, talking to people who might have seen or have information about the shooting.

In announcing the curfew, Nixon said that though many protesters were making themselves heard peacefully, the state would not allow looters to endanger the community.

Darrell Alexander, 57, worried Saturday night that the curfew might spur anger and more violence.

"I think it's an antagonistic decision to not allow people to express their freedom of speech. It's an overreaction," he said.

On Saturday, some residents said it appeared the violent acts were being committed by people who came from other suburbs or states.

Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, is a six-year police veteran who had no previous complaints against him, the local police chief has said.

The Ferguson Police Department has refused to say anything about Wilson's whereabouts, and Associated Press reporters were unable to contact him at any addresses or phone numbers listed under that name in the St. Louis area.

Wilson has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting. St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch said it could be weeks before the investigation wraps up.

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