*The Missouri State Highway Patrol “will be directing the team that provides security” in Ferguson, Gov. Jay Nixon said today.
Ferguson has “looked a little bit more like a war zone, and it’s not acceptable,” Nixon said during a press conference this afternoon.
Police on Thursday defended their use of tear gas, smoke bombs and “bean bag” bullets to repel demonstrators after another night of chaos over the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
St. Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman said officers on Wednesday night tossed tear gas to disperse a large crowd of protesters after some threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at officers. More than 10 people were arrested in Ferguson. More protests are expected.
Nixon also announced Thursday that the highway patrol unit in the embattled town will be overseen by Capt. Ron Johnson, a native of Ferguson.
At a meeting earlier Thursday with area clergy and activists in the predominantly African-American town of around 20,000, Nixon told the participants of his plans to address the police situation, “I think you will all see a different tone.”
The Democratic governor said he would make it clear that the right of people to protest would not be curtailed as long as they respect the property and person of others.
“If people have things to say, they ought to be able to say them, and if people in the news media want to cover stuff and take pictures, they ought to do it,” he said to applause from the gathering. “We live in a free country.”