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US police crack down, family appeals for calm

The family of an unarmed African American teen killed by police appealed for calm and justice on Thursday (Aug 14) after another night of protest saw authorities lob tear gas at demonstrators and arrest reporters.

WASHINGTON: The family of an unarmed African American teen killed by police appealed for calm and justice on Thursday (Aug 14) after another night of protest saw authorities lob tear gas at demonstrators and arrest reporters. Michael Brown died Saturday in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, sparking unrest and allegations of police racism.

Witnesses and police have given conflicting versions of how the 18-year-old was shot dead in broad daylight, two days before he was due to start college. With locals incensed over the incident, Wednesday marked the fourth straight night of protest with rifle-toting police in military-style fatigues and body armour attempting to disperse the crowd.

Television and social media footage showed thick clouds of smoke and protesters scurrying through it. In one sequence, police fire gas at a TV news crew then dismantle its abandoned equipment. Police also used sound bombs and rubber bullets to disperse crowds.

As day broke, the Brown family's attorney appealed for calm and urged federal authorities to carry out an independent autopsy of their son Michael's body. "What we need to do is make sure we're concentrating on getting justice for Michael, not just being angry, and so they're sending a message to everybody who truly cares about Michael Brown and his family, let's try to be peaceful and responsible in our protests," Benjamin Crump told CNN.

"There is nothing Michael Brown could have done to justify him being executed in broad daylight, and this is the worst police shooting I have ever seen," he added. "We have to get answers and it has to be transparent and that's why we're calling on the Justice Department and the Attorney General to do an independent autopsy."

Separtely, police arrested two journalists reporting on the situation. Wesley Lowery, a Washington Post political reporter, and Ryan Reilly, who works for the Huffington Post, were arrested in a McDonald's after police entered the restaurant and ordered people to leave, the pair wrote on Twitter. In a series of tweets, Lowery said they were given no explanation for their arrest other than "trespassing" and were not charged with any offenses before being released.

"I'm emotional, but need to note: Ryan and I are fine. Have seen people in Ferguson hurt by gas/rubber bullets. This wasn't that," Lowery tweeted. Lowery also said the police officers "assaulted" him because the two reporters were not leaving the McDonald's quickly enough.

SITUATION 'DEEPLY TROUBLING'

As events unfolded in Ferguson, President Barack Obama - who has called for calm after the "heartbreaking" incident - was briefed by both his senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and Attorney General Eric Holder.

Meanwhile, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon - who was expected to make an address later Thursday - issued a statement specifically addressing press freedom and the right to protest and. "The worsening situation in Ferguson is deeply troubling, and does not represent who we are as Missourians or as Americans," he said. "While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law enforcement officers to protect the public, we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern."

The arrests of the reporters also sparked international reaction, with the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe - better known for reporting on rights abuses and poor governance in conflict zones - calling the incident "unacceptable". "Summarily rounding up journalists while they are doing their jobs sends a dangerous precedent and must never be condoned, the group's media freedom watchdog Dunja Mijatovic said. "Journalists have the right to report on public demonstrations without being intimidated by the police."

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