Missouri governor calls Ferguson situation ‘deeply troubling,’ will visit Thursday

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) called the situation in Ferguson, Mo.,  "deeply troubling" late Wednesday and announced he would change his schedule in order to visit the city on Thursday, signaling a new, more intense level of engagement than in previous days.

“The worsening situation in Ferguson is deeply troubling, and does not represent who we are as Missourians or as Americans," Nixon said in a statement. "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."

Nixon said he is "committed to ensuring the pain of last weekend’s tragedy does not continue to be compounded by this ongoing crisis. Once again, I ask that members of the community demonstrate patience and calm while the investigation continues, and I urge law enforcement agencies to keep the peace and respect the rights of residents and the press during this difficult time."

The Washington Post's Wesley Lowery and social media users captured video of protests and clashes with police in Ferguson, Mo., on Tuesday. It was the third day of rallies for Michael Brown, an unarmed teen fatally shot by a police officer on Saturday. (Sarah Parnass and Wesley Lowery/The Washington Post)

The comments from Nixon marked a shift following four days of more restrained input. On Monday, the governor issued a statement calling for a federal investigation into the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by a police officer on Saturday, triggering days of confrontations between police and angry protesters. On Tuesday, at a meeting of civic and faith leaders, Nixon asked for patience and peace as facts are being gathered in the case.

But up until late Wednesday, he still apparently planned to appear at the state fair on Thursday as previously planned.

Nixon's schedule change came as the situation in Ferguson remained tense. Wednesday was another day of heated clashes between protesters and police. Authorities reportedly used tear gas. And at least two reporters, including The Washington Post's Wesley Lowery, were arrested.

Other elected officials have also been reacting carefully.

The state's two U.S. senators tweeted late Wednesday that they were in touch with state and federal officials. The last time Sens. Claire McCaskill (D) and Roy Blunt (R) had weighed in on the Ferguson situation on Twitter before then had been Monday, when both released statements calling for a "transparent" investigation into Brown's death.

The situation in Ferguson also drew input on Twitter early Thursday from some members of Congress beyond Missouri. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) appeared to take a dig at a pair of conservative senators before offering his prayers to the people of Ferguson and calling on Nixon to contain the situation.

 

And Rep. Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican with libertarian leanings, said the government was inflaming the situation with its show of force.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

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