POLITICS

Missouri Governor Defends Curfew Despite Violent Clashes In Ferguson

WASHINGTON -- Gov. Jay Nixon (D) on Sunday defended his decision to impose a curfew on Ferguson, Missouri, as protesters continued to clash with police officers in the aftermath of Michael Brown's death.

In an unusual move Saturday, Nixon declared a state of emergency and ordered a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. in Ferguson, the St. Louis suburb where Brown, an unarmed teenager, was shot to death by a police officer last week. Reporters on the scene described the mood at times on Saturday as antagonistic, and a small group of protesters defied the curfew.

Police ended up firing smoke and tear gas at protesters who stayed out past the deadline, and arrested seven people. One man was shot at the site of protests, and is now in critical condition, police said.

Asked on CNN's "State of the Union" if his curfew had been counterproductive, Nixon argued that it "worked well" and was necessary to prevent looting.

"We're always disappointed when things aren't perfect, but thousands of people spoke last night, thousands of people marched and not a single gunshot [was] fired by a member of law enforcement," Nixon said. "Members of the community [were] tremendously helpful last night to get through what could have been a very difficult night."

Some argued that the curfew renewed the tense atmosphere that Nixon sought to dispel earlier in the week by replacing county police, who had used a militarized approach toward protesters, with state highway patrol officers. Nixon wouldn't say if he intended to keep the curfew in place in coming nights, placing the onus on the protesters' ability to remain peaceful.

"We'd like to see it ratcheted down. That will be judged by the community," Nixon said. "I was heartened by the thousands of people there and, as the curfew approached, it was the local people helping us."

"Let's not kid ourselves -- this was a horrific shooting," he added. "We're not to justice yet, and there will be some moments of energy and angst over the coming days and weeks. We are trying to use the least amount of force to provide people the ability to speak, while also protecting the property of the people of Ferguson."

Tensions have flared in Ferguson since Brown was killed last week, but appeared to be improving when state highway police took over the law enforcement response on Thursday. The situation quickly changed on Friday when county police accused Brown of stealing cigarettes the day he was shot and released a video showing the alleged robbery. Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said Brown's shooting was unrelated to the robbery.