Ferguson smoulders after racially charged riots

About a dozen buildings in suburban Ferguson burned overnight and police fired tear gas at protesters.

Firefighters work to put out a fire at a business after protesters burned buildings in protest against the Grand Jury decision not to indict a police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, USA, 25 November 2014. Picture: EPA.

FERGUSON - The St. Louis area braced for another day of protests on Tuesday after a grand jury cleared a white police officer in the fatal August shooting of an unarmed black teenager, sparking a night of violent and racially charged rioting.

About a dozen buildings in suburban Ferguson, Missouri, burned overnight and police fired tear gas and flash-bang canisters at protesters, said St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar. Sixty-one people were arrested, police said.

Although no serious injuries were reported, Belmar said the rioting on Monday night and early Tuesday morning was "much worse" than the disturbances that erupted in the immediate aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson on 9 August.

Protests also were staged on Monday night in New York, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, Oakland, California, and Washington, D.C., over a case that has highlighted long-standing racial tensions not just in predominantly black Ferguson but across the United States.

In the city of St. Louis, where windows were broken and traffic was briefly stopped on a major highway overnight, Police Chief Sam Dotson vowed to have a stronger police response on Tuesday night.

"A large presence, very early on, will be a deterrent," said Dotson, whose jurisdiction does not include Ferguson. "We'll have resources deployed."

Schools in Ferguson and its surrounding cities said they planned not to open on Tuesday and city offices in Ferguson were also closed. Protesters planned to demonstrate on Tuesday outside the courthouse in Clayton, Missouri, where the grand jury sat.

The rioting came despite calls for calm from officials ranging from Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to President Barack Obama. Activist leaders had spent weeks training protesters in non-violent civil disobedience techniques and police also had been through conflict de-escalation training, although tempers flared after crowds threw bricks at police and set patrol cars on fire following the grand jury's decision.

Officials disclosed that ruling well after sunset and hours after saying it was coming, a set of circumstances that led to protesters taking to the streets well after dark.

St. Louis police reported heavy gunfire late on Monday in the area near where Brown was slain but Belmar said officers did not fire a shot, even after they were pelted with rocks, bottles, batteries and other debris.