FERGUSON, Mo. — The white police officer cleared last week by a grand jury in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager has resigned from the Police Department here, his lawyer said on Saturday night.
The officer, Darren Wilson, who began his police career in a nearby suburb in 2009, submitted a resignation letter, which cited concerns about the safety of other police officers and residents here, as among his reasons, according to Neil J. Bruntrager, the attorney. In the letter, which was published in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he also said he hoped that his resignation would “allow the community to heal.”
For months, some here had called for Mr. Wilson to step down or be fired following the killing of Michael Brown, 18, and the unrest that followed in August, and then again, as the grand jury made its decision on Monday. Mr. Wilson, 28, had worked for the Police Department in this small suburban city since 2011.
Mayor James Knowles III of Ferguson and other city officials said they had not yet been notified of the resignation.
Earlier in the day, about 100 marchers led by the N.A.A.C.P. set off from the street where Mr. Brown was killed on a weeklong walk to Missouri’s Capitol, 120 miles from this fractured city. They invoked the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1965 march in Selma, Ala., the Freedom Rides and other civil rights-era pilgrimages for justice.
The group sang as it made its way up West Florissant Avenue, past the burned-out husks of an auto-parts store, a beauty parlor and other businesses destroyed in the chaos after a grand jury voted not to indict the officer in the killing of Mr. Brown. A trumpeter played “We Shall Overcome.”
“It’s going to communicate that black lives are important, that police officers are here to protect us,” said Mary Ratliff, the N.A.A.C.P.’s Missouri president, who walked near the head of the line. “We are here to say we’ll no longer stand for this.”
Police cruisers crept along with the crowd, and organizers exhorted the line to keep a tight formation — only three people wide, please. The marchers paused to speak with a woman standing along the side of the road whose antiques store had been destroyed in the looting and arsons. When the marchers raised their arms into the warm November afternoon and shouted, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” two little girls watching from their front yard also lifted their hands and yelled the same thing, before ducking into their garage.
“It’s not a color thing,” said Carlos Carter, 41, who was taking a week off from his job as a barber to make the trip to the capital, Jefferson City. “We want to see everybody’s kids grow up and thrive, give everybody their chance.”
The march was part of demonstrations here and across the nation touching on police tactics, race and poverty that are stretching toward a second week since the grand jury’s decision.
More than 100 protesters marched through a shopping plaza in the affluent St. Louis suburb of Brentwood, lying on the ground in a “die-in” to represent Mr. Brown’s shooting. As they marched along the sidewalk, they were shadowed by dozens of police officers. One man was arrested when officers saw him in a crosswalk.
At the memorial to Mr. Brown near the Canfield Green apartments in Ferguson, dozens of motorcyclists swirled through the streets, revving their engines in a show of solidarity. Outside the St. Louis County Courthouse in Clayton, where the grand jury had met, more than 100 protesters circled the building in a silent vigil.
Inside the Greater St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church here, scores of people of diverse races, ages and hometowns met to sort out what comes next for the protest movement. Some were members of formal organizations focused on issues like poverty and criminal justice. Others said they had come here on their own, some of them from places like Chicago and Los Angeles.
Among items on a draft list of goals: firing the Ferguson police chief; urging passage of legislation requiring a special prosecutor to be appointed in cases like Mr. Brown’s involving the police; consolidation of small police departments; and a requirement that all Missouri police departments publish an annual report on episodes of deadly force.
“The narratives changes,” one organizer told the crowded church. “We didn’t get an indictment.”
The peaceful daytime demonstrations came as Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri sent state lawmakers a letter outlining what he called an urgent need to fund the ballooning costs to pay hundreds of National Guard troops and state police officers who are deployed here on the streets, day and night. The governor has called a special legislative session.
The march from Ferguson to the governor’s mansion, called a “Journey for Justice” will be carried out in 17-mile increments, with marchers heading back to churches in St. Louis and Jefferson City at the end of each day and resuming the next morning where they left off. Every evening, there will be teach-ins and rallies, organizers said.
At a prayer service before the marchers set off, a litany of clergy members and N.A.A.C.P. leaders excoriated the grand-jury process that ended with no criminal charges against Mr. Wilson, and railed against racial disparities in the legal system they said had been laid bare by Mr. Brown’s killing.
“We cannot be satisfied until Michael Brown and his family have the justice they deserve,” Cornell William Brooks, the president of the N.A.A.C.P., told the crowd.
As she marched, Regina Sias, 43, who drove here from Atlanta after watching images of the unrest, shook her head at the sight of destroyed stores and boarded-up buildings. “This is not the answer,” she said. Farther back, Angela Hawood-Gaskin, a charter-school principal, said she was walking not just for Mr. Brown, but for her own son, whom she said had been pulled over by the police because he is black.
“That’s what we’re talking about,” she said. “It’s all across the board. All of our children of color are facing it.”
Source: NY Times