LANHAM, Md. (WNEW/AP) — A number of vigils were held in Washington Thursday night by protesters angry over the death of an unarmed black teen shot by an officer.
A portion of 7th Street near the Verizon Center in northwest was closed around 9 p.m. as hundreds of protestors demonstrated peacefully in honor of Michael Brown, police say. Authorities reopened the stretch of road around 10 p.m. after the demonstrators dispersed.
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Gallery: D.C. Stands Together for Mike Brown
The vigils came as President Barack Obama spoke publicly for the first time about Saturday’s fatal shooting of Brown and the subsequent violence that shocked the nation and threatened to tear apart Ferguson, Missouri a town that is nearly 70 percent black patrolled by a nearly all-white police force.
Obama said there was “no excuse” for violence either against the police or by officers against peaceful protesters.
Earlier Thursday, Obama appealed for “peace and calm” on the streets of the St. Louis suburb.
Like last year’s Trayvon Martin shooting, social media brought international attention to a tragedy that might otherwise have been known only to the immediate community. Ferguson spawned a proliferation of hashtags and was the dominant subject Thursday on Twitter, Facebook and other sites. Journalists and protesters offered real-time pictures, videos and text reports, and the world responded, often in outrage.
Police have said Brown was shot after an officer encountered him and another man on the street. They say one of the men pushed the officer into his squad car, then physically assaulted him in the vehicle and struggled with the officer over the officer’s weapon. At least one shot was fired inside the car. The struggle then spilled onto the street, where Brown was shot multiple times.
The officer involved was injured, with one side of his face swollen, Jackson said.
Dorian Johnson, who says he was with Brown when the shooting happened, has told a much different story. He has told reporters that the officer ordered them out of the street, then grabbed his friend’s neck and tried to pull him into the car before brandishing his weapon and firing. He says Brown started to run and the officer pursued him, firing multiple times.
Attorney General Eric Holder has said federal investigators have interviewed eyewitnesses to the shooting. A person familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said federal authorities have interviewed Johnson.
Holder spoke by telephone Thursday with Brown’s family to offer condolences and to tell them that the Justice Department was committed to a full and independent investigation.
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