FERGUSON, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Monday dropped the curfew that had been in effect for two nights in an ill-fated effort to curb the violence and chaos that have ripped this city.
Nixon announced that the National Guard would assume "limited responsibilities" to help keep order during nighttime protests over the shooting death of a teenager by a police officer.
"With these additional resources in place, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and local law enforcement will continue to respond appropriately to incidents of lawlessness and violence, and protect the civil rights of all peaceful citizens to make their voices heard," Nixon said in a written statement. "We will not use a curfew tonight."
President Obama announced that Attorney General Eric Holder will go to Ferguson on Wednesday to meet with local leaders as well as FBI and Justice officials who are conducting an independent federal civil rights investigation into the death of Michael Brown, 18.
At a late afternoon news conference, Obama once again called for understanding and calm on Ferguson's streets.
"While I understand the passion and anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving in to that anger by looting ... only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos,'' he said, adding, "There's no excuse for excessive force by police or any action that denies people the right to protest peacefully."
Noting that it was a state and not a federal decision to call in the National Guard, Obama said that in a conversation with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, he "expressed an interest in making sure that . . . the National Guard is used in a limited and appropriate way.''
"I'll be watching over the next several days to see whether in fact it's helping rather hindering'' progress, the president said.
Capt. Ron Johnson, regional head of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said that his officers would allow peaceful protest but not tolerate criminal behavior.
"Tonight we will ensure the safety of the citizens of Ferguson, the visitors to Ferguson and the businesses of Ferguson,'' Johnson said. "We will also ensure that peaceful protests will be allowed. ... We will not allow vandals, criminal elements, to impact the safety and security of this community.''
On Monday afternoon, tension between police and demonstrators was palpable. In one instance, St. Louis County police officers arrested a man walking on the sidewalk.
Two police officers tackled the man and took him to the ground while onlookers shouted that the man wasn't doing anything wrong.
"I didn't see anybody behaving in any way that would instigate for the police to do anything," said Ben Mengis, 55, of St. Louis County, who said he was standing 10 feet from the incident. "He did not do anything."
Small groups of protesters gathered in a few places during the afternoon. Police ordered them away from some of the gathering places that have been prone to late-night upheaval.
The midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew did little to curb the violence and looting. On Monday, a representative of the Nation of Islam said his group would ask protesters to go home early Monday night. He noted that the group can't force people to leave but cited "the militarized police force" and the National Guard as reasons to do so.
"We are going to tell them that this is a different day now with the National Guard in," said Akbar Muhammad, international representative of the Nation of Islam. "We want them to leave by sunset."
Muhammad also said at a press conference near the Ferguson Police Department that his group is looking for a venue to hold a youth rally, "like a town hall meeting" for local youths.
"We want to let them speak, express themselves," he said.
The latest unrest led officials to close all schools in the Ferguson-Florissant School District on Monday. School had already been postponed last week due to the violence.
Nixon ordered the National Guard into Ferguson hours after police cited "preplanned" acts of aggression by protesters Sunday night and early Monday morning. Protesters shot at police, threw Molotov cocktails at officers, looted businesses and carried out a "coordinated attempt" to block roads and overrun the police's command center, the governor's office said in a written statement.
The predominantly black city of 21,000 on the outskirts of St. Louis has been under siege since Aug. 9, when white police officer Darren Wilson, 28, fatally shot unarmed black pedestrian Michael Brown, 18. Protesters have been met with a heavy police presence, resulting in fierce nightly clashes.
"We are all frustrated and looking for justice to be achieved regarding the shooting death of Michael Brown," Nixon's statement said. "As the dual investigations continue into what happened nine days ago at Canfield Green, we must defend Ferguson from these violent interlopers so that the peaceful protests can operate in peace and the search for answers and justice can continue."
Earlier Monday, lawyers for Brown's family released details of the private autopsy done at the request of the family by pathologist Michael Baden. The preliminary report indicated Brown was shot six times. Only one of the shots was fatal, Baden said.
"It verifies the worst that the family thinks happened — that he was executed," family attorney Benjamin Crump said. "It confirms what the witnesses said, that this was an execution."
Officer Wilson has supporters. More than 100 people rallied Sunday in downtown St. Louis on his behalf. The rally was organized through social media and the Support Darren Wilson Facebook page, which was created Saturday. By noon Monday, the page had drawn more than 24,000 "likes."
More than two hours before a second midnight curfew was set to begin Sunday night, police fired tear gas at hundreds of angry protesters who were marching down the town's main thoroughfare toward a police command center.
"Based on the conditions, I had no alternative but to elevate the level of our response," said the highway patrol's Johnson. "We had to act to protect lives and property."
At least two people were injured, including one who was shot, Johnson said. Seven or eight people were arrested and will be charged with failure to disperse, police said.
"Police were shot at, makeshift barricades were set up to block police, bottles and rocks were thrown at police," Johnson said.
Some protesters said no one threw Molotov cocktails.
Renita Lamkin, 43, the pastor of St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Charles, Mo., has been acting as a peacekeeper, urging people to remain calm.
"That is not true," she said when asked about claims that protesters threw Molotov cocktails.
Yah Ammi, 30, said protesters did nothing to provoke officers. He did, however, say protesters planned a march to the police's command post. In the middle of marching there, officers threw tear gas at the group.
"They cut us off and they began shooting without warning," Ammi said. "They began shooting into the crowd with women, children, and the peaceful, innocent protesters who were here exercising our constitutional rights."
Contributing: Larry Copeland