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Michael Brown's family, Al Sharpton vow to fight on

FERGUSON, Mo. — The family of slain unarmed teen Michael Brown vowed to fight on Tuesday as their hometown arose after a night of looting, arson and angry protests at the decision not to charge Officer Darren Wilson with Brown’s death.

“You have broken our hearts — you have not broken our backs,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said to cheers at a news conference organized by the family Tuesday morning.

A smaller crowd of about 100 rowdy but peaceful protesters again took to the streets outside Ferguson Police Department on Tuesday night — and two were arrested for blocking traffic — but as of 8:30 p.m., there was no repeat of the chaos that saw a dozen businesses burned to the ground and many more looted Monday night.

Parts of the St. Louis suburb that were worst affected by the vandalism Monday were locked down by police and extra National Guard troops, who were conspicuous by their absence in the burning neighborhoods Monday night.

Residents in the town were struggling to comprehend both the destruction and the revelations in a massive dump of grand jury documents released by St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch.

Brown’s family made it clear they held McCulloch responsible for the failure to indict Wilson.

But as Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., stood next to Sharpton earlier Tuesday wearing a T-shirt with the words “No Justice, No Peace,” the veteran civil rights campaigner said, “This is not a Ferguson problem. . . . It’s a national problem.”

He vowed that Brown would not be remembered for the sad scenes of destruction in Ferguson on Monday night, but for inspiring a national movement of police accountability.

Other speakers called for every police officer in the U.S. to wear a video camera; for the appointment of a special prosecutor to re-examine Brown’s Aug. 9 death; and for the federal government to do what McCulloch did not and indict Wilson.

Michael Brown Sr. did not speak during the event because he was “too emotional” and did not want to say something he regretted, family attorney Benjamin Crump said.

Brown Sr. appeared close to tears but nodded his support as Sharpton vowed to continue campaigning. Crump said video footage showing Michael Brown’s stepfather appearing to incite arson after it emerged Monday night that Wilson would not be charged was “totally inappropriate” but was driven by “raw emotion.”

Community members in Greater St. Mark Family Church hollered their agreement when a reporter asked if authorities “let Ferguson burn” by failing to intervene to stop arsonists Monday night.

Many business were burned in Ferguson just after the grand jury decision was announced. Rev. Al Sharpton on Tuesday decried the destruction. | Alex Wroblewski/Sun-TImes

Community members in Greater St. Mark Family Church hollered their agreement when a reporter asked if authorities “let Ferguson burn” by failing to intervene to stop arsonists Monday night.

Sharpton condemned the arsonists, asking, “You achieve what? A fire. But you don’t get justice for Mike Brown.”

But he reserved his strongest scorn for McCulloch. In his long career, he said, “I’ve never seen a prosecutor hold a press conference to discredit the victim.”

Sharpton and other speakers said transcripts of the grand jury testimony show that prosecutors never made any effort to indict Wilson, and in fact acted as his defense attorneys.

He said the history of the civil rights movement showed that only the feds, who continue to probe Brown’s death, can be relied upon to protect the rights of African-Americans.

“America saw why we said from day one that the federal government needs to step in to protect the rights of Mike Brown,” he said.

Half a mile away, helicopters patrolled the sky above, as police kept several burned and looted city blocks shut down as a crime scene.

Some buildings continued to smolder with acrid smoke as business owners returned to take stock.

Salon owner Kim Leriche was among the lucky few near the worst-hit stretch of West Florissant whose business was unscathed.

The Vietnamese immigrant said she had been in Ferguson for nine years and is staying put.

“It’s a good location,” she said. “Last night was an overreaction, but we’ll be OK.”

Outside, a National Guard Humvee kept watch.

Responding to criticism from Ferguson Mayor James Knowles, who said Tuesday that the National Guard wasn’t deployed quickly enough as violent protests broke out Monday night, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon ordered more than 2,200 National Guardsmen in place near Ferguson Tuesday evening — triple the number in place on Monday.

On Tuesday, Knowles thanked the police officers, firefighters and highway patrol troopers who worked to save businesses in a more than a dozen buildings that were set on fire and otherwise vandalized during the unrest. But Knowles said, “the National Guard was not deployed in enough time to save all of our businesses” and called the delay “deeply concerning.”

Despite the tentative peace early Tuesday night, tensions remained high. Missouri State Police angered what had been a relatively calm crowd when they cleared the street outside the Ferguson Police Department about 8 p.m., making two arrests.

“No justice, no peace!” the crowd cried.

Contributing: AP

Responding to criticism from Ferguson Mayor James Knowles, who said Tuesday that the National Guard wasn’t deployed quickly enough as violent protests broke out Monday night, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said more than 2,200 National Guardsmen will be in place near Ferguson on Tuesday evening.

Hundreds more will be deployed to Ferguson, Nixon said.

Nixon said 700 guardsmen were in the area on Monday night, when more than a dozen buildings were set on fire and otherwise vandalized. But reporters saw no guardsmen in the worst affected area, near where Mike Brown was killed Aug. 9.

Knowles on Tuesday thanked the police officers, firefighters and highway patrol troopers who worked to save businesses in a more than a dozen buildings that were set on fire and otherwise vandalized during the unrest. But Knowles said “the National Guard was not deployed in enough time to save all of our businesses” and called the delay “deeply concerning.”