Saint Louis, Mo. — Gov. Jay Nixon declared a State of Emergency in Ferguson today and announced a five-hour curfew after tensions erupted against last night, resulting in the looting of several local businesses.
The call comes two days after Nixon removed county police from their crowd control duties in Ferguson and installed the Highway Patrol and Captain Ron Johnson to contain the largely peaceful protests being held in the community.
Rep. John Diehl, Speaker-elect of the Missouri House of Representatives, was one of several lawmakers who publicly called on Nixon to announce a curfew. Protestors have taken to the streets in a almost permanent state of protest since unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer last week. State Auditor Tom Schweich, widely speculated to be mulling a 2016 gubernatorial run, said he felt it was never a good idea to investigate yourself, fueling more doubt as to the support St. Louis County would have from local lawmakers.
“We obviously need to get that situation under control, I don’t think there’s anyone who disagrees with that,” Diehl said.
Congressman Lacy Clay, who represents Ferguson, told reporters that he also didn’t support St. Louis County running its own investigation.
“You’re not gonna get a fair trial in St. Louis County,” Clay said.
As details begin to emerge about the shooting and international attention has focused on the police handling of the protestors, Nixon told reporters today that it was a very, very small number of protestors causing the violence.
“The eyes of the world are watching,” Nixon said. “This is a test of whether a community, any community, can break the cycle of fear, distrust, and violence.”
Nixon’s press conference to announce the curfew quickly turned sour, with a massive crowd of locals and protestors standing alongside reports, at times heckling or shouting down Nixon and Johnson.
The State of Emergency draws more questions about just who will handle the investigation of the shooting. State Senator Jamilah Nasheed started an online petition demanding St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch recuse himself from the case, which has over 17,000 signatures. Tensions between Nixon and McCulloch date back to Nixon’s long service as Missouri’s Attorney General, and McCulloch publicly chided the governor for removing county police in favor of state police in Ferguson.
Nixon dodged questions at the press conference about whether or not a State of Emergency would give him the authority to remove McCulloch from the case.
Nixon and Johnson said the police would work as hard as possible to enforce the curfew without deploying armored vehicles or tear gas. They also told reporters a media staging area would be set up to allow the press to cover the curfew and its enforcement.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.