The governor of Missouri has ordered 2,200 National Guard troops to Ferguson in a desperate attempt to counter another wave of violence prompted by anger that the white police officer who shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown to death will not face criminal prosecution.
"Violence like we saw [Monday] night cannot be repeated," Governor Jay Nixon said in a statement, as he faced criticism from some Ferguson residents and community leaders over what many saw as an inadequate response to a night of mayhem that saw about a dozen buildings torched, more than 60 people arrested and repeated instances of gunfire.
The sharp uptick in violence comes as many in Ferguson – including Mr. Brown's family – try to come to terms with a grand jury's decision on Monday not to indict Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson for shooting Mr. Brown to death on Aug. 9.
The violence forced U.S. President Barack Obama to once again address not only the events in Ferguson but also the broader issue of race relations in the United States. It is an issue on which the President has sought to walk a fine line between condemning violent acts while also acknowledging that many minority communities in the U.S. feel not only profound anger, but also deep mistrust of their law-enforcement authorities.
"The frustrations that we've seen are not just about a particular incident," the President said in a speech in Chicago originally intended to address his intended immigration reforms.
"They have deep roots in many communities of colour who have a sense that our laws are not always being enforced uniformly or fairly."Now, it may not be true everywhere," Mr. Obama said, "and it's certainly not true for the vast majority of law-enforcement officials, but that's an impression that folks have and it's not just made up. It's rooted in realities that have existed in this country for a long time."
Mr. Brown's family sought to spark a wider conversation about police behaviour, focusing specifically on pushing for measures to make body cameras mandatory on all police officers in the country.
Yet the teenager's family also fired back against what they called a fundamentally flawed grand-jury process led by a prosecutor – St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch – they allege was unfit for the job.
"We strenuously objected to this prosecutor and this process," said Brown family lawyer Benjamin Crump. "We object publicly and loudly on behalf of Michael Brown's family. This process is broken."
The extent of Monday night's violence appeared to take residents, police and political leaders by surprise. On Tuesday, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles publicly criticized what he saw as a slow and inadequate deployment of the National Guard in his city, calling it "deeply concerning."
Jon Belmar, chief of the St. Louis County police force, described Monday night's events as a riot, rather than a peaceful protest with violent elements.
"I really don't have any hesitation in telling you that I didn't see a lot of peaceful protest out there [Monday], and I'm disappointed about that," he said.
Meanwhile, the police officer at the centre of the controversy went on the public-relations offensive on Tuesday, giving his first interview since shooting Mr. Brown to death in August. On ABC, Mr. Wilson reiterated the version of events he told investigators – that Mr. Brown initially cursed him, reached for the officer's weapon, ran away and then, after being shot, turned back and made for Mr. Wilson, at which point the officer fired the fatal shot.
Asked whether he's certain the events would have happened the same way had Mr. Brown been white, Mr. Wilson said he was.
Evidence that the grand jury's decision touched a nerve nationwide was clear on Tuesday night in a series of large demonstrations, including ones in Los Angeles, St. Louis (a 20-minute drive from Ferguson) and New York City, where protests forced the closing of the Lincoln Tunnel, a major artery.
Throughout Ferguson on Tuesday morning and afternoon, residents could be seen bracing for more violence. Dozens of storefronts were boarded up with sheets of wood, including businesses just a few metres away from a police station. Despite being boarded up, many stores remained opened during daylight hours on Tuesday.
Many signs of the previous evening's mayhem could be seen throughout the city on Tuesday – most notably in the dozen structures burned by arsonists on Monday night. A tow truck carrying the charred remains of a torched hatchback passed through South Florissant Road, one of the areas where protester and police activity has been most intense.
However, there were also many indicators that residents were once again going about repairing their hometown after the latest round of strife and violence.
In Ferguson's public library, volunteers set up a makeshift tutoring program after local schools decided not to open for the day. Groups of residents could be seen repairing damaged driveways and businesses. At the "I Heart Ferguson" store, a non-profit that sells Ferguson-branded clothing and donates the proceeds to small-business owners whose property has been damaged, volunteers did brisk trade throughout the day.
"It was hellacious," said Tana Cofer, a volunteer at the store and a 50-year Ferguson resident.
"We were afraid there would be violence, we thought there might be violence, but not like this."