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Protests reignite in Ferguson after fire destroys teen’s memorial

Five people were arrested and two police officers injured in renewed violence overnight on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, sparked by a fire that destroyed a shrine to a black teenager killed by a police officer last month.

Shots were fired and rocks and bottles thrown at officers in clashes between police and more than 100 protesters, which took place late Tuesday into the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday morning. One area business was looted and vandalized, and a restaurant was set on fire, officials said.

“This behavior will not be tolerated,” Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson said at a news conference. Johnson was appointed last month by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to coordinate law enforcement efforts to quell unrest in Ferguson. “We’re out here trying to protect the community.”

Ferguson, a mostly black community of 21,000, has seen weeks of racially charged protests and bursts of violence following the Aug. 9 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

The past few weeks have seen mostly peaceful protests and the law enforcement presence in the area had been reduced.

But fresh anger erupted when a fire early Tuesday morning destroyed the smaller of two makeshift memorials honoring Brown.

The memorial that caught fire was in a grassy area alongside the road where Brown was shot and died and included candles, stuffed animals and other items. A larger memorial, which runs down the center lane of the road, was untouched by the blaze.

“The fire started this whole thing up again,” said Al Nothum, a highway patrol spokesman. “A lot of people thought the police did it or it was done on purpose by someone. We believe candles caught it on fire. But we’re looking into it.”

Nothum said police forces would be “geared up” to head off additional violent protests.

Ferguson city leaders also postponed indefinitely a festival planned for this weekend due to safety concerns.

Protesters have pledged continued civil unrest until Wilson is arrested and charged in Brown’s death. A grand jury in St. Louis County is examining the case, as is the U.S. Department of Justice.

Brown’s parents and national civil rights leaders are planning a press conference in Washington on Thursday to reiterate their demand that the Justice Department take over the investigation into Brown’s killing.

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