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Ferguson reeling from the effects of grand jury decision

The decision that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson would not be charged by a grand jury for the shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown sparked riots and protests in Ferguson and major cities last night. Gwen Ifill reports on the reactions by protesters and law enforcement after the decision was announced.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Ferguson, Missouri, bore witness today to the chaos and destruction that erupted last night. The Saint Louis suburb remained tense over a grand jury's decision that a white policeman face no criminal charges for killing an unarmed black teenager.

    The blackened remains of a Ferguson business smoldered in the morning light. And streets were mostly subdued, as people ventured out to see the aftermath of the rioting. The family of Michael Brown and their lawyers also emerged, at a Saint Louis church, to reject the grand jury's findings.

  • BENJAMIN CRUMP, Brown Family Lawyer:

    We object publicly and loudly as we can on behalf of Michael Brown Jr.'s family that this process is broken. A first-year law student would have did a better job of cross-examining a killer of an unarmed person than the prosecutor's office did.

    (APPLAUSE)

  • PROTESTERS:

    No peace! No peace!

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The family's fury echoed sentiments on the streets last night. The news that Darren Wilson, a white police officer, wouldn't be indicted for killing Brown, a black teenager, gave rise to raw emotions.

  • WOMAN:

    I have a son, so I'm hurt. What am I going to tell my son when he grows up? QUESTION: Did you expect this?

  • WOMAN:

    Yes, I did.

  • QUESTION:

    But you still hoped that it would be different?

  • WOMAN:

    You try and have hope, but this is what happens.

  • WOMAN:

    We just hoped for one time that our lives would matter, that somebody would see that our lives are valuable. But it didn't happen that way, just like it hasn't happened before.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    At first, many people marched peacefully, and some tried to keep things under control.

    From the White House, President Obama called for unity to help address racial and other divisions.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    That won't be done by throwing bottles. That won't be done by smashing car windows. That won't be done by using this as an excuse to vandalize property. And it certainly won't be done by hurting anybody.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    But, soon enough, anger turned into violence, looting and property destruction far worse than what happened in the days after Brown was killed in August. Buildings and cars went up in flames, with more than 20 fires set.

    Authorities reported hundreds of gunshots, wounding several people and keeping fire crews at bay. Police were out in force, many wearing full riot gear, using armored vehicles, and firing tear gas to disperse the crowds. At least 61 people were arrested in Ferguson, and 21 more in Saint Louis.

    But the mayor of Ferguson, James Knowles, complained later today that, although Governor Jay Nixon activated the National Guard, he didn't send them in quickly enough.

  • MAYOR JAMES KNOWLES, Ferguson:

    The decision to delay the deployment of the National Guard is deeply concerning. We are asking that the governor make available and deploy all necessary resources to prevent the further destruction of property and the preservation of life in the city of Ferguson.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Governor in, in turn, defended his decision to deploy 700 troops at 100 locations. But he announced he's tripling the number tonight.

    GOV. JAY NIXON, (D) Missouri: Altogether, there will be more than 2,200 National Guardsmen in the region. Lives and property must be protected. This community deserves to have peace.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The grand jury findings also sparked protests across the country in mostly peaceful shows of support for Brown and his family. In New York City, they marched through Times Square.

  • PROTESTERS:

    No justice, no peace!

  • MAN:

    I think it's a complete embarrassment to American justice.

  • WOMAN:

    It's demoralizing. And it makes you question the fabric of the place that you grown in and whether you can exist here.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    There were similar marches in Los Angeles.

  • CAROL MEDINA:

    It's a very sad day in our community right now. We share the sympathies of the same people in Ferguson. We feel the same way they do. We're very upset. We're afraid for our kids, we're afraid for our families, because it just feels like black life has no value.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And in Oakland, California, demonstrators shut down a freeway in both directions.

    Back in Ferguson, at the center of the storm last night, prosecutor Bob McCulloch acknowledged there would be criticism of the grand jury's conclusions.

  • ROBERT MCCULLOCH, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney:

    I'm ever mindful that this decision will not be accepted by some and may cause disappointment for others. But all decisions in the criminal justice system must be determined by the physical and scientific evidence and the credible — the credible testimony corroborated by that evidence, not in response to public outcry or for political expediency.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    McCulloch said the grand jury of nine whites and three blacks met on 25 days, heard more than 70 hours of testimony from 60 witnesses, including officer Wilson, and found no probable cause to charge him.

    In key testimony, Wilson said Brown came at him in his car, and grabbed at him and his gun. He testified — quote — "I felt like a 5-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan." The officer said he shot Brown multiple times, first while in his car, and again after Brown charged at him on the street.

    A friend of Brown's who was with him denied Brown struck Wilson or charged him. The testimony of bystanders conflicted on both points. Today, Wilson told ABC News that he feared for his life in the struggle with Brown, and that his conscience is clear. He still faces a possible civil suit for wrongful death by Michael Brown's family. And the Justice Department is continuing separate federal investigations.

    Late today, Attorney General Eric Holder promised the investigations of Wilson and the Ferguson police will be vigorous and thorough. He also said he has ordered an after-action review to help identify those behind the violence. We will hear what the people of Ferguson are saying and take a closer look at the grand jury report right after the news summary.

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