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31 arrests in Ferguson after night of violence

FERGUSON, Missouri--Protesters in Ferguson shot at police and threw rocks and Molotov cocktails in a new spasm of violence late Monday in the St. Louis suburb that left six wounded and led to 31 arrests, police said.

Police responded with tear gas to disperse the crowd of about 200 in the town, Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol said early Tuesday. He said police showed restraint and did not open fire.

Johnson said two demonstrators and four officers were injured in the fresh unrest that has shaken Ferguson since a white police officer shot dead a black teenager, unleashing a new debate over police treatment of minorities in the United States.

Unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed in broad daylight on a residential street by Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white police officer, on Aug. 9.

Monday's demonstration over the killing started peacefully, only hours after President Barack Obama, interrupting his summer vacation, made a national televised appeal for calm.

But Johnson told a news conference that a loud albeit peaceful group of about 200 then started moving toward the police and a small minority among them attacked officers in riot gear.

“There is a dangerous dynamic in the night,” Johnson said. “It allows a small number of violent agitators to hide in the crowd and then attempt to create chaos.”

He added: “Our officers came under heavy gunfire.”

Johnson stood behind a table on which a gun and a Molotov cocktail he said had been seized from protesters were on display.

Some of those in the crowd were not locals but rather people from as far away as New York and California, he said. The news conference began with a prayer for peace led by a county chaplain.

“Protesters are peaceful and respectful. Protesters don't clash with police,” Johnson said. “It is criminals who throw Molotov cocktails and fire shots that endanger lives and property.”

U.S. National Guard troops had rolled into Ferguson earlier in the day, but they kept a low profile as police in riot gear dispersed the demonstrators around 11:00 p.m. (0400 GMT).

Obama, the nation's first African-American president, said he was sending Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson on Wednesday as Washington launches a civil rights investigation into the case.

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A man is detained after a standoff between protesters and police Monday, Aug. 18, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri on Aug. 9.

(AP)

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