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Obama to send aides to Ferguson funeral

Three White House officials will attend funeral service of unarmed teen whose death in police shooting sparked unrest.

Last updated: 24 Aug 2014 02:01
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The violent clashes have tapered in St. Louis suburb but demonstrations continue [Reuters]

US President Barack Obama is sending three White House officials to the funeral service of the 18-year-old whose death in a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked days of racial unrest.

Leading the group for Monday's service for Michael Brown will be the chairman of the My Brother's Keeper Task Force, Broderick Johnson.

My Brother's Keeper is an Obama initiative that aims to empower young minorities. Johnson is also the secretary for the Cabinet. Also attending will be the deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, Marlon Marshall, and an adviser for the office, Heather Foster.

The move is seen as an attempt to ease tensions between authorities and protesters, who gathered on Saturday to mark two weeks since a white police officer, Darren Wilson, shot dead Brown, an unarmed black teenager.

No arrests were recorded overnight, marking three consecutive relatively calm nights for the St. Louis suburb following daily unrest since August 9.

Authorities had logged dozens of arrests nightly as police clashed with demonstrators in unrest that has focused international attention on often-troubled US race relations.

The National Guard began a gradual withdrawal from Ferguson on Friday, but authorities remain braced for a possible flare-up of civil disturbances ahead of Brown's funeral.

Sharp criticism

Police came under sharp criticism, especially in the first days of demonstrations, for making mass arrests and using heavy-handed tactics and military gear widely seen as provoking more anger and violence by protesters.

Obama on Saturday ordered a review of the distribution of military hardware to state and local police out of concern over how such equipment has been used in Ferguson.

Hundreds of people marched on Saturday afternoon in a St. Louis County NAACP-led rally wearing brightly coloured T-shirts, many holding umbrellas for shade as temperatures hit 37 degrees Celsius.

Dozens of supporters of Officer Wilson said in a separate rally miles away the shooting was justified. They campaigned to raise money for Wilson's family and held signs that read "innocent until proven guilty".

Little information has been released about the investigation of the shooting.

A grand jury of three blacks and nine whites began hearing evidence on Wednesday in a process the county prosecutor has said could run until mid-October.

The violent clashes have tapered but demonstrations continue.

Local activists, clergy, US civil rights workers and community activists from around the country have set up shop in Ferguson and say they plan to stay for an extended period.

In part they want to work on ways to improve Ferguson, a community of 21,000 that is about 70 percent African American but where almost all the police and local politicians are white.

Civil rights activists say Brown's death followed years of police targeting blacks in the community.

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