Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri said Tuesday that he would increase the number of National Guard troops in this suburban St. Louis city and broadly expand their role in keeping the peace after a night of arson, looting and rampaging demonstrators showed that weeks of preparation for a grand jury decision in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown had failed to prevent violence.
In Washington, St. Louis and Ferguson itself, an array of public officials, community leaders and clergy were deeply critical of one another as they sought to explain how protests over the grand jury’s decision not to indict the white police officer in the shooting had spun further out of control than the unrest that followed the death in August of Brown, who was black.
“What they’ve gone through is unacceptable,” Nixon said, appearing frustrated at a news conference in St. Louis as business owners along two commercial strips in Ferguson began sweeping up broken glass and trying to assess losses.
Officials had been unwilling to provide details about the number of troops when Nixon first called up the Missouri National Guard last week in advance of the grand jury announcement, but it was clear that he wished to send a precise and powerful message Tuesday.
More than 2,200 members of the guard, he said, were expected in and around this city Tuesday evening, protecting homes and businesses. A night earlier, the guard’s role had been largely limited to protecting government buildings, including a police command post.
The streets of Ferguson were crowded but relatively calm Tuesday evening, with the heavier police presence tamping down the violence and looting from Monday night.
There were a few arrests and some minor confrontations. One including the toppling and torching of a Ferguson police car in front of City Hall.
President Barack Obama opened a speech in Chicago by talking about Ferguson, saying that he had ordered Attorney General Eric Holder to undertake a major review of policing practices in the United States, including a community-by-community process of identifying and highlighting specific steps to “make sure that law enforcement is fair and is being applied equally to every person in this country.”
But the president, even as he acknowledged that many people felt anger and frustration that Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted, condemned the rioting and looting that followed.
“To those who think that what happened in Ferguson is an excuse for violence, I do not have any sympathy for that,” Obama said. For those working to make change, he added, “I want to work with you, and I want to move forward with you.”
Wilson, who has not appeared in public since the shooting, said Tuesday in his first interview that he had a “clean conscience” about what happened because “I know that I did my job right.”
In the interview, with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, Wilson said he would not have done anything differently. Asked whether he would have handled the situation the same if Brown were white, he said yes.
In dozens of rallies across the country on Tuesday afternoon, including in Baltimore, Boston, Washington and New York, protesters railed against the decision not to indict Wilson.
In Chicago, about 100 protesters, most in their 20s, gathered for a 28-hour sit-in outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office. Organizers said they had chosen the time frame based on a study that one black person was killed in the U.S. by the police or armed vigilantes every 28 hours.
A large crowd in Cleveland blocked a major intersection. In Pittsburgh, a stream of marchers carried signs reading “Disarm the police” and “Stop racist terror,” while in Atlanta, Morehouse College students walked from the campus to a rally outside CNN headquarters. In Minneapolis, a rally was disrupted when a car hit several protesters.
The violence in Ferguson on Monday came despite more than three months of preparations by some activists and law enforcement authorities who had hoped that demonstrations could be kept peaceful even if the grand jury chose not to indict Wilson. But nearly all of those plans fell short. On all sides, there were complaints and blame.
Some said that the police, who had responded with too much military-style force in August, seemed Monday night to be very restrained, even as stores were looted and fires were set. And protest leaders, who had pledged that they would carry out militant but nonviolent shows of anger, appeared unable to rein in those with more violent ideas.
Many here, including some political leaders, questioned the decision by Robert McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecutor, to announce the grand jury’s finding in a lengthy news conference Monday night — rather than waiting for sunrise — and to forgo giving a 24-hour notice that the Brown family had hoped to receive.
“There is no good time,” said Ed Magee, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, defending the release of the grand jury’s decision at close to 8:30 p.m.
McCulloch, alone, decided the timing of the announcement and did not notify in advance some state officials, such as Nixon, that the grand jury had come to a decision, Magee said.
Another attorney for the Brown family vowed to push for federal charges against Wilson and said the grand jury process was rigged from the start to clear Wilson.
“We said from the very beginning that the decision of this grand jury was going to be the direct reflection of the presentation of the evidence by the prosecutor’s office,” attorney Anthony Gray said.
Residents and business owners along the streets in Ferguson expressed frustration and fear at what occurred on Monday night. For weeks, the authorities here had worked to assure them that the region would be ready for whatever was ahead.
“They abandoned us completely,” said Rob Chabot, the owner of Mobile Eye Care Solutions, along South Florissant Road, where episodes of violence flared on Monday. “They sacrificed Ferguson. For what cause? I don’t know.”
In a news conference here, James Knowles III, the mayor of Ferguson, was also critical of the state’s response. “Unfortunately, as the unrest grew and further assistance was needed, the National Guard was not deployed in enough time to save all of our businesses,” he said.
Just as law enforcement officials were criticized for being too aggressive in August, they were facing questions Tuesday over whether their approach this time was too tame. Chief Jon Belmar of the St. Louis County Police and other officials defended their response, saying they took steps to de-escalate the situation but the magnitude of the violence was beyond their ability to control.
Among the more than 60 people arrested Monday on various charges, including second-degree burglary and arson, most were Missouri residents — a shift, some here said, from the unrest of the summer.
“In August, we talked about how the out-of-towners came in and tore up our community,” said Capt. Ronald S. Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol. “Well, our community has got to take some responsibility for what happened tonight.”
Many, too, blamed protest groups for failing to restrain people whose plans went far beyond the peaceful protests promised in weeks past.
The Associated Press and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.