Police fire teargas in Ferguson, Missouri. 13th August, 2014. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
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Why are US police firing tear gas and rubber bullets in Ferguson, Missouri?

Armoured vehicles, journalists arrested and protestors shot at – a summary of recent events in Ferguson, Missouri following the shooting of teenager Michael Brown.

Last night, police in Missouri fired tear gas and rubber bullets at crowds protesting against the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager. The shooting occurred on Saturday afternoon, and demonstrators have now gathered for four consecutive nights, and have been met with a “military” style police response.

Police claim officers were responding to violence from crowds, while other reports suggest that protestors were “backing away with their hands up” when being shot at. Officers were reported to have warned crowds before firing, declaring that the “peaceful protest is no longer peaceful”. The confrontation involved armoured trucks, and sniper rifles were reportedly trained on demonstrators.

Among those arrested were two journalists, raising concerns over press freedoms. The editor of the Washington Post, the employer of one of the arrested reporters, commented that the event was “an assault on the freedom of the press to cover the news”. The Huffington Post also criticised the “militant aggression” of the police response.

Meanwhile, an Al-Jazeera camera crew have reported being shot at with rubber bullets. Further concerns about media reporting were raised after county police imposed a ban on flights operating below 3,000 feet above the city, which is believed to have restricted coverage from news helicopters.

There is widespread anger about how the case has been handled, and crowds are demanding to know identity of the police officer who carried out the shooting. Although having planned to release the name of the officer, the police reversed their decision, citing “threats made against all Ferguson officers on social media sites” as their reason. It is understood there are currently no plans in place to release the officer’s identity.

Accounts of the shooting vary. Details released by St Louis County Police Department suggest that a scuffle took place after officers asked Brown and another teenager to get out of the street. Following this, an officer fired at Brown from inside the patrol car. The officer reportedly received hospital treatment for a facial injury after the event.

However, others recount the shooting differently. One witness recalled how Brown was grabbed by police after refusing to get on the pavement, before being shot multiple times as he tried to run away. St Louis County Police are still investigating, with a spokesperson claiming that being unable to speak to many “critical witnesses” was slowing the investigation.

A key issue is the concern about racism within the police force. Ferguson’s 21,000 population is two-thirds black, yet the town only has three black police officers out of a total of 53.

Police have asked protestors to only gather during the day and to disperse “well before evening hours”. Yet citizens are concerned about this limitation on their liberty, with one protestor commenting that he planned to “retaliate to the force they are using”. Despite demonstrators mainly consisting of younger members of the community, reports suggest that they have the sympathy of older generations, and it is unclear what course future events will take. 

See below for CNN's video footage of the event:

 

George Gillett is a freelance journalist and medical student. He is on Twitter @george_gillett and blogs here.

Photo: Getty
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Emmanuel Macron can win - but so can Marine Le Pen

Macron is the frontrunner, but he remains vulnerable to an upset. 

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is campaigning in the sixth largest French city aka London today. He’s feeling buoyed by polls showing not only that he is consolidating his second place but that the voters who have put him there are increasingly comfortable in their choice

But he’ll also be getting nervous that those same polls show Marine Le Pen increasing her second round performance a little against both him and François Fillon, the troubled centre-right candidate. Her slight increase, coming off the back of riots after the brutal arrest of a 22-year-old black man and Macron’s critical comments about the French empire in Algeria is a reminder of two things: firstly the potential for domestic crisis or terror attack to hand Le Pen a late and decisive advantage.  Secondly that Macron has not been doing politics all that long and the chance of a late implosion on his part cannot be ruled out either.

That many of his voters are former supporters of either Fillon or the Socialist Party “on holiday” means that he is vulnerable should Fillon discover a sense of shame – highly unlikely but not impossible either – and quit in favour of a centre-right candidate not mired in scandal. And if Benoît Hamon does a deal with Jean-Luc Mélenchon – slightly more likely that Fillon developing a sense of shame but still unlikely – then he could be shut out of the second round entirely.

What does that all mean? As far as Britain is concerned, a Macron or Fillon presidency means the same thing: a French government that will not be keen on an easy exit for the UK and one that is considerably less anti-Russian than François Hollande’s. But the real disruption may be in the PR battle as far as who gets the blame if Theresa May muffs Brexit is concerned.

As I’ve written before, the PM doesn’t like to feed the beast as far as the British news cycle and the press is concerned. She hasn’t cultivated many friends in the press and much of the traditional rightwing echo chamber, from the press to big business, is hostile to her. While Labour is led from its leftmost flank, that doesn’t much matter. But if in the blame game for Brexit, May is facing against an attractive, international centrist who shares much of the prejudices of May’s British critics, the hope that the blame for a bad deal will be placed solely on the shoulders of the EU27 may turn out to be a thin hope indeed.

Implausible? Don’t forget that people already think that Germany is led by a tough operator who gets what she wants, and think less of David Cameron for being regularly outmanoeuvered by her – at least, that’s how they see it. Don’t rule out difficulties for May if she is seen to be victim to the same thing from a resurgent France.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.