Rain did not deter hundreds of protesters, angry at the shooting death of unarmed Michael Brown a week ago, in Ferguson, Missouri from demonstrating in the streets Saturday night and early Sunday morning.
The state's governor, Jay Nixon, declared a state of emergency Saturday afternoon and set an unpopular curfew which was disobeyed by a small crowd. Around 1 a.m. Sunday morning eye-witnesses gave conflicting reports, some saying police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the remaining protesters, others claiming the shots heard were merely smoke cannisters.
The mood among hundreds of protesters on a main road in Ferguson that has been the scene of recent demonstrations was tense and defiant on Saturday night just prior to the midnight curfew and dozens of helmet-clad officers holding full-length shields took position near demonstrators in the rain.
"The curfew is going to make things worse," said protestor Phonso Scott, 24. "I think the cops are going to get violent tonight, but they can't lock us all up."
The curfew will be in effect from midnight to 5 a.m., said Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol. He said the curfew would be enforced through communication, not physical force. "We will be telling people, 'It's time to go home,'" he said.
"We won’t enforce it with trucks, we won’t enforce it with tear gas, we’ll communicate," Johnson said during the afternoon press conference.
By Saturday night Johnson stood in the rain listening to a local resident asking why the officer who shot Brown had not been arrested or charged. "We'll get some answers. I promise you," he said.
"The eyes of the world are watching. This is the test of whether a community, this community, any community, can break the cycle of fear, distrust and violence, and replace them with peace, strength and, ultimately, justice," Gov. Nixon said in remarks made at a church near the embattled community Saturday afternoon.
After another night of racially charged protests and looting in Ferguson, the governor had said he was going to meet with local and state law enforcement on Saturday to craft a plan aimed at quelling further violence.
That plan, apparently, resulted in the establishment of the curfew.
"It was a rough time last night. There was a lot of looting and there were a lot of people arming themselves in their storefront to guard their businesses," said Al Nothum, a spokesman for the Missouri Highway Patrol earlier in the day.
Noting that most protesters on Friday night had been peaceful, Nixon said he "cannot allow the ill-will of the few to undermine the goodwill of the many, while putting the people and businesses of this community in danger.''
"This is not to silence the people of Ferguson,'' Nixon said, "but to address those who are drowning out the voice of the people with their actions. We will not allow a handful of looters to endanger the rest of this community.''
But after his opening remarks, Nixon quickly lost control of the crowd, with the images being recorded for a national television audience.
"You need to charge that police with murder!'' one person yelled. Others demanded to know how the curfew would be enforced. "Going to do tear gas again?" someone asked.
Nixon began answering that "the best way for us to get peace" was for everyone to go home and get a good night sleep, when another resident interrupted him, shouting "we don't need sleep. We need justice!"
St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough, who has faced skepticism from some elected officials and community members over his ability to handle the case, on Saturday told a local public radio station he plans to convene a grand jury within days to begin looking into evidence in the shooting of Brown.
The governor put Captain Johnson in charge of security on Thursday after several nights of violent clashes between protesters and local police forces in the aftermath of the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Tensions temporarily cooled on Thursday night but on Friday evening protesters again swarmed through a residential and retail district in the small town outside St. Louis that has become a near war zone, pitting mostly black protesters against mostly white police forces.
Johnson said police fired a teargas canister at a crowd near a food and liquor store and broader violence and looting erupted. Some protesters threw bottles at riot gear-clad police who had ordered the crowd to disperse.
Peaceful protesters, some chanting "hands up, don't shoot," attempted to stop looters at several shops, including a store Brown was accused by police of robbing of cigars earlier in the day before his death.
“This is wonderful. This is what should have happened a long time ago,” Robert Powell, 42, said as he watched looters during the night hop through the shattered glass door of a meat market.
Powell, who owns a professional cleaning service, grew up on the city's west side, and to him, this was small-time crime.
After years of living in a town where he said African American men are singled out for harsh treatment by the police, he shared the looters’ frustration.
Powell blamed the unrest on the Ferguson police chief's release of information Friday about Brown.
Further down the road, Etefia Umana and his son were walking past the scene of the earlier mayhem, with Umana pointing out businesses where citizens had prevented looters from entering.