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Protesters back on the streets in US suburb

Demonstrators say they will persist until white police officer is charged over killing of unarmed black teenager.

Last updated: 20 Aug 2014 08:47
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FERGUSON, MISSOURI – Protesters in the US suburb of Ferguson have taken to the streets again after more than a week of racially-charged rioting since the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman.

The police have struggled to cope with a combination of peaceful protestors and looters who have smashed windows and torched buildings in a spate of violence that has raised fresh questions about US race relations almost six years after Americans elected their first black president.

Right now, to get us off the streets, they just need to charge him. Charge the officer.

Johanna Ly, protester

"It’s a game of chess between us and the government. We make our move, now it’s their move," protester Charnicholas Walker, 38, told Al Jazeera.

"There will be 5,000 of us out tonight. The only reason it won’t be 50,000 is because people are scared from seeing the tear gas on social media."

Police said they came under heavy gunfire overnight on Monday and arrested 31 people despite the deployment of Missouri National Guard troops and the lifting of a curfew to allow demonstrators more freedom to protest peacefully.

The violence erupted just hours after US President Barack Obama had called for calm.

Michael Brown was killed while walking with a friend on the afternoon of August 9th. Police have identified the officer who fired the fatal shot as 28-year-old Darren Wilson. He has been suspended with pay and the shooting is being investigated by the justice minstry and the St Louis County Police Department.

Prosecutors said they could start presenting evidence to a grand jury on Wednesday to determine if Wilson will be charged. US Attorney General Eric Holder is due to visit the area on Wednesday and meet with investigators.

"Right now, to get us off the streets, they just need to charge him. Charge the officer," protestor Johanna Lyn, a mother-of-three, told Al Jazeera in front of a smashed and looted store on West Florissant Avenue on Tuesday.

"Instead, they’ve called in the National Guard and mobilised the military forces from every county around here, because they are trying to violate our constitutional right to protest. And it’s making everything worse. The front lines at night are like a war zone."

Second killing

Ferguson, a predominantly-black suburb of the city of St Louis with 21,000 residents, has a history of racial tension. Black residents complain about harassment from a mostly-white police force, bad schools and unemployment.

The situation was further inflamed on Tuesday when police shot and killed a knife-wielding man 6 km from the site of Brown’s killing. Police said witnesses reported the man behaving erratically and coming at two officers with the knife.

Protester Walker, a machine operator and life-long resident of the area, pointed to a bruise from where a rubber bullet ricocheted from the tarmac onto his leg and said the "chess game" he described was not yet over.

"I’m never going away. I’ve been fighting for this too long. If the policeman gets charged, we’re still gonna protest. We want justice. We want to be able to walk away from here and not get pulled over, just cos of the colour of my skin," he told Al Jazeera.

"All we’ve done is move a couple of pawns. We haven’t moved our bishop yet."

Follow James Reinl on Twitter : @jamesreinl

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Al Jazeera
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