National Guard starts to pull out of embattled Missouri town
Two straight nights of relative calm have created a sense of guarded optimism among some residents and officials that protests over the weekend will be more peaceful and largely devoid of the looting and violent clashes that drew national attention to the St. Louis suburb over the past two weeks.
Police made only isolated arrests Wednesday and Thursday nights. But some cautioned the calm may not hold: Weekend nights can often be more combustible, since more people tend to be on the streets, and funeral services are planned on Monday for 18-year-old Michael Brown.
"Monday night will be a critical night," said Bishop Edwin Bass, president of the St. Louis church Urban Initiatives of the Church of God In Christ. "The funeral could have a big impact on the mood of the community."
In additional to local activists and clergy, a contingent of US civil rights workers and community activists from Georgia, Florida, Detroit and elsewhere have set up shop in Ferguson and say they plan to remain in town for an extended period.
The patchwork of groups, including the Dream Defenders and the National Lawyers Guild, are holding training and strategy sessions for local young people and others who want to continue to peacefully protest Brown's death. They are instructing teams of "legal observers" on how to document complaints of police harassment and abuse.
A flier one group has been handing out states, "Today It's Ferguson, Tomorrow It's You," and it pictures white police officers with dogs facing off against black youth with hands raised in the air.
At a makeshift memorial on the street where Brown had been shot, dozens of supports gathered, including the teenager's father, Michael Brown, Sr.
Wearing a blue T-shirt with a photo of his son and the words "I am legend, the world now knows my name," Brown took pictures of the memorial with his cell phone. He then stood for a while, looking stricken with grief, before returning to his car.
Later today, the New Black Panther Party planned a protest march, while an area church said it would hold a "praise and worship" service.