ST. LOUIS (AP) — EDITOR’S NOTE — A year ago, most Americans had never heard of the St. Louis suburb called Ferguson. But after a white police officer fatally shot a black 18-year-old in the street, the name of the middle-class community became virtually a household word. From the first hours after Michael Brown’s death, Associated Press reporter Jim Salter watched as a neighborhood protest launched a national movement.
Until August 2014, Ferguson, Missouri, wasn’t the kind of place that generated much news. It was a mostly quiet suburban town of 21,000, a mix of beautiful old homes and working-class neighborhoods. Like a lot of communities in north St. Louis County, it had seen significant white flight and was now two-thirds African-American.
My wife’s grandmother lived in Ferguson until she died in 1991, so I spent some time there as a young man. But since joining the St. Louis office of The Associated Press in 1993, I had never been to Ferguson as a reporter.
On Aug. 9, I returned home from a bike ride to learn that a young black man had been fatally shot by a white Ferguson police officer. By that humid Saturday evening, hundreds of people were congregating near the scene where Michael Brown was killed by Darren Wilson. The crowd was angry. Some witnesses said the 18-year-old had his hands up in surrender when he was shot.
The next day, as Ferguson police prepared for a news conference to explain what happened, I was among a crowd of reporters who heard distant chanting. As I walked toward the noise, I could see in the distance hundreds of people, many holding signs. The chant soon became clear: “Hands up! Don’t shoot!”
That would become the rallying cry in the unrest that followed. It was also the first evidence that Ferguson would be a far bigger story than we initially imagined.
Shootings by police are not uncommon, a sad reality of urban life. In April last year, about four months before Brown died, a mentally ill man was shot in a Milwaukee park. A few days before, a man waving an air rifle was killed in an Ohio Wal-Mart by police.
So what was different in Ferguson? Brown and Wilson had their fatal encounter in the middle of a street surrounded by apartment buildings. It was almost noon on a Saturday, and many people — residents, construction workers, visitors — were outside.
Word quickly spread from witnesses who believed the shooting was unjustified, that Brown was trying to surrender. What we didn’t know at the time was the depth of mistrust between black residents and the predominantly white Ferguson Police Department, a level of suspicion that no doubt fueled what happened next.
On Sunday evening, thousands of people crowded the same street where Brown was killed for a vigil. The anger was evident, but the event was peaceful. Suddenly, a young woman came running: “They’re rioting on West Florissant.”
I ran the three blocks to the busy four-lane street lined with retail businesses. My attention was drawn to a large group of people cheering and yelling obscenities in the direction of a QuikTrip convenience store.
By the time I got there, it was on fire. People were running out, their arms full of stolen goods.
Never before had the anger been as intense as in Ferguson. Young men began hurling bricks through store windows, kicking in doors, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at police cars.
The destruction that night led police to adopt a tougher stance. By Monday, hundreds of officers in riot gear, some in armored trucks, lined the streets. Now police were becoming more aggressive. Some aimed their threats and angry words at protesters and journalists.
AP reporters, photographers and videographers from around the nation arrived, and the words and images we helped capture became part of the national debate about police interaction with black communities, the police response to protests and economic disparity between the races.
It was often harrowing work. Our journalists faced threats from protesters and police. Gas masks and bulletproof vests arrived, but many of us on the front lines of the riots felt the sting of tear gas when we failed to deploy the masks quickly enough.
The unrest lasted for months, worsened by a series of fatal police shootings in St. Louis. Most of the protests were nonviolent.
Meanwhile, local authorities had released virtually no information about when the grand jury considering potential charges for Wilson would render a final decision.
The announcement that Wilson would not be charged finally arrived on the evening of Nov. 24. The night produced striking visuals of buildings engulfed in flames and riot police massed under a “Season’s Greetings” banner.
The next morning, the AP team was back out on the streets of Ferguson as the National Guard rolled in and the community assessed the damage.
Ferguson became the impetus for a national movement. Soon, other fatal police encounters with black suspects drew similar scrutiny.
After Ferguson, old presumptions are gone and new questions asked. The events there intensified how the nation looks at law enforcement, the use of deadly force and the inflamed relations between blacks and American police.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — When a white Ferguson policeman fatally shot a black 18-year-old nearly a year ago, the St. Louis suburb erupted in violent protests and the nation took notice. Since then, legislators in almost every state have proposed changes to the way police interact with the public.
The result: Twenty-four states have passed at least 40 new measures addressing such things as officer-worn cameras, training about racial bias, independent investigations when police use force and new limits on the flow of surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.
Despite all that action, far more proposals have stalled or failed, the AP review found. And few states have done anything to change their laws on when police are justified to use deadly force.
National civil rights leaders praised the steps taken by states but said they aren’t enough to solve the racial tensions and economic disparities that have fueled protests in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York and elsewhere following instances in which people died in police custody or shootings.
“What we have right now in the country is an emerging consensus as to the need to act,” said NAACP President Cornell William Brooks. “What we don’t have is a consensus as to how to act, what to act on and how to do this in some kind of priority order.”
The Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old who had scuffled with Ferguson officer Darren Wilson, came just a few weeks after Eric Garner — an unarmed black man accused of illegally selling cigarettes — died in a struggle with white New York City officers. Garner’s death was captured by an onlooker’s video. Brown’s was not, and word quickly spread that he had been shot while surrendering with his hands up — an assertion uncorroborated by state and federal investigations.
Some Ferguson protesters burned stores and threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at heavily armored police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds — all under the lens of live, national media coverage. The protests again turned violent when a Missouri grand jury decided not to charge Wilson. And similar riots broke out in Baltimore in April following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after being injured in police custody.
The AP analysis of legislation passed in all 50 states found the greatest interest in officer cameras that can capture what transpires between police and civilians. Sixteen states passed body-camera measures this year, ranging from resolutions merely creating study panels to state grants subsidizing cameras and new laws on how they can be used. Numerous cities from coast-to-coast, including Ferguson, also began using the cameras without waiting for legislative direction.
“Right now, all law enforcement has an image problem,” said California Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, a Democrat from Los Angeles whose budget subcommittee allotted $1 million for a pilot project outfitting some Highway Patrol troopers with cameras. “They’ve got to show that they can police their own.”
Just three states — Colorado, Connecticut and Illinois — have passed comprehensive packages of legislation encouraging body cameras, boosting police training on such things as racial biases and requiring independent investigations when police shoot people. Colorado and Connecticut also are among several states that bolstered citizen rights to take videos of police.
Police groups have been urging lawmakers to proceed with caution when altering laws on the way they do their jobs. They stress that officers involved in shootings deserve fair investigations and that surplus military equipment typically is used by police for defensive purposes. Any Ferguson-inspired changes should focus on training police commanders to make better decisions on when and how to use their officers and equipment, said Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Police are frustrated by the tone of the national debate, he said.
“While we’re trying to save lives, politicians are trying to save their jobs,” he said.
Police unions still hold considerable sway in some states, including in Missouri, where lawmakers filed about 65 bills stemming from the events in Ferguson. Legislators passed just one of them — a measure limiting municipal court fines and traffic tickets in response to complaints about aggressive law enforcement designed to generate revenue. Most notably, Missouri made no change to its law on when police can use deadly force, even though it apparently doesn’t comply with a 1985 U.S. Supreme Court ruling barring deadly force against unarmed fleeing suspects who pose no serious danger.
“As a state, we have not done much,” said Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who represents Ferguson and was among the protesters who were tear-gassed by police. “We have a bunch of chumps who are elected right now who are more comfortable keeping the status quo.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has rallied with relatives of Brown and Garner, described Missouri’s response as “disappointing” and indicative of an “institutional denial” of the need for change.
But Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon says the “landmark” municipal courts bill is an “important step.” A commission he created has proposed 148 steps to improve police and court policies, racial and economic equality and local schools. Nixon also created an Office of Community Engagement and a summer jobs program for young people in the St. Louis area.
Other governors also have acted without waiting for legislators. After a rookie Cleveland patrolman fatally shot a 12-year-old boy who was holding a pellet gun in November, Ohio Gov. John Kasich created a panel to develop the state’s first-ever standards for police use of deadly force. And New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order directing appointment of special prosecutors to investigate police killings of unarmed civilians.
In South Carolina, the Ferguson-inspired bills didn’t pick up steam until the issue hit closer to home, when a bystander’s cellphone video showed a white North Charleston officer fatally shooting an unarmed black man in the back in April. Two months later, Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill allowing state aid for police agencies to buy body cameras.
Advocates for police accountability pushed hard in Maryland this legislative session with limited success, winning passage of bills covering body camera policies and fatal incident reporting. Gray’s death occurred shortly after the session ended. Now Maryland lawmakers have formed a panel to further examine public safety and police practices, and civil rights activists there are urging lawmakers to do more.
Ezekiel Edwards, director of the ACLU’s criminal law reform project, said states can’t expect to make real progress by merely equipping officers with cameras or providing more training. He said states must also provide better education, employment and housing opportunities for residents.
“There’s been a tremendous amount done over the past year,” Edwards said, “but there is a massive amount of work that is left to do going forward.”
Associated Press writers Brian Witte in Annapolis, Maryland; Seanna Adcox and Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina; Andrew Welsh-Huggins and Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio; David Klepper in Albany, New York; and Don Thompson in Sacramento, California, contributed to this report.
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerian troops rescued 178 people from Boko Haram in attacks that destroyed several camps of the Islamic extremists in the northeast of the country, an army statement said Sunday.
Spokesman Col. Tukur Gusau said that 101 of those freed are children, along with 67 women and 10 men.
The Nigerian Air Force reported killing “a large number” of militants in repelling an attack on Bitta village, 50 kilometers (30 miles) southwest of the army operations that took place around Bama, 70 kilometers (45 miles) southeast of Maiduguri city. Maiduguri is the birthplace of Boko Haram and the capital of northeastern Borno state.
Sunday’s statements did not specify when the attacks occurred.
Last week the army rescued 71 kidnapped people.
Hundreds have been freed from Boko Haram captivity this year but none of the 219 girls abducted in April 2014 from a school in Chibok were among the rescued.
The extremists distributed a new video on Twitter on Sunday purporting to show attacks on Nigerian army barracks in the states of Borno and Yobe. The video also shows the beheading of a man in military fatigues said to be a Nigerian soldier.
According to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group, an unidentified fighter, shown in the video with looted army weapons and ammunition, says the footage shows Nigeria’s military has not forced Boko Haram from its positions and got them hemmed into the Sambisa Forest, as the military has claimed.
Some of those rescued last week said they had been held by Boko Haram for up to one year in villages just 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Maiduguri.
OXNARD, Calif. (AP) — Dez Bryant kept going after Dallas cornerback Tyler Patmon in a heated training camp skirmish that didn’t end until quarterback Tony Romo finally stepped in and calmed his star receiver.
Bryant, who has a history of sideline antics that include screaming at coaches and teammates, threw something at Patmon and later appeared to take a swing at him after the two tangled during a play in 11-on-11 work late in the practice Sunday.
The incident started when Patmon jarred Bryant’s helmet loose during a play and Bryant responded by yanking off Patmon’s helmet. Patmon threw a punch and backed away, and Bryant came back with a wild left hook before teammates separated them. The Cowboys posted video of the exchange on their website.
Tight end Jason Witten was among those who couldn’t get Bryant to walk away. Romo eventually came over and got Bryant to move to a different part of the sideline, while Patmon stood with players and other team personnel nearby.
Bryant, the biggest star in this camp because he recently signed a five-year, $70 million contract that ended his threat not to show up, said he and Patmon exchanged words for several plays before the skirmish that had several teammates trying to separate them.
When practice ended a few minutes later, coach Jason Garrett spoke briefly to Bryant, who then walked over to Patmon and hugged him while fans nearby cheered after earlier yelling at Bryant to calm down.
“I got a little bit overheated,” Bryant said. “At the end of the day, that’s something that you really need for a team, on a team. I’m just trying to win ballgames.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who had already left the practice field, wasn’t bothered by the display. He said he caught footage of it on television and said, “Man, you’d have thought it was CNN featuring some big event going on.”
“That’s training camp. That’s not new,” Jones said. “That’s been happening at our training camp for years and years and years.”
Jones also noted that it was just the second padded practice in front of a second straight bigger weekend crowd. The Cowboys drew 3,727 Sunday after the first padded workout Saturday brought in 5,802 fans.
“The kind of atmosphere that we’ve worked to put together, and that atmosphere breeds that kind passion, it breeds that kind of excitement,” Jones said. “Sure enough, here comes some after-the-whistle action.”
Patmon is an undrafted second-year player still fighting for a roster spot a year after making the team with a strong camp and preseason. He played in 11 games and both of Dallas’ playoff games.
Both players went to Oklahoma State.
“Oh, man, it’s just brothers,” Patmon said. “Brothers fight. That happens sometimes. We go at it. After that we squash it and it’s over.”
Bryant, days removed from talking about the growth and maturity that led to his huge payday, bristled at the notion that he remains a focal point because of several sideline incidents. Besides ranting at teammates and coaches, Bryant also left the field before the clock ran out in a particularly painful loss to Green Bay two years ago.
“All I can say is have I ever missed a game?” said Bryant, who initially left the field without stopping for reporters but came back and answered questions after he had taken off his uniform. “All right then. So I don’t even know why you asked me that question.”
Bryant said Garrett told him “he wasn’t going to get in between it and all of that.”
“Because he knows the kind of guy I am,” Bryant said. “This kind of stuff happens. I just hate the fact that when it’s me, I know that I can get kind of animated with everything. That’s why a lot of focus is on me. It’s really good for the team.”
And Bryant, a first-round draft pick in 2010, also acknowledged that Patmon is an unsung player battling for attention.
“You don’t want somebody weak on your team,” Bryant said. “He’s fighting his way and he’s fighting for respect. And he’s got mine then. You can go to war with a guy like that any day of the week.”
Both players will have an extra day to cool off. Dallas takes a break Monday before returning to practice Tuesday.
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Aiming to jolt the rest of the world to action, President Barack Obama moved ahead Sunday with even tougher greenhouse gas cuts on American power plants, setting up a certain confrontation in the courts with energy producers and Republican-led states.
In finalizing the unprecedented pollution controls, Obama was installing the core of his ambitious and controversial plan to drastically reduce overall U.S. emissions, as he works to secure a legacy on fighting global warming. Yet it will be up to Obama’s successor to implement his plan, which reverberated across the 2016 presidential campaign trail.
Opponents planned to sue immediately, and to ask the courts to block the rule temporarily. Many states have threatened not to comply.
The Obama administration estimated the emissions limits will cost $8.4 billion annually by 2030. The actual price won’t be clear until states decide how they’ll reach their targets. But energy industry advocates said the revision makes Obama’s mandate even more burdensome, costly and difficult to achieve.
“They are wrong,” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said flatly, accusing opponents of promulgating a “doomsday” scenario.
Last year, the Obama administration proposed the first greenhouse gas limits on existing power plants in U.S. history, triggering a yearlong review and more than 4 million public comments. On Monday, Obama was to unveil the final rule publicly at an event at the White House.
“Climate change is not a problem for another generation,” Obama said in a video posted to Facebook. “Not anymore.”
The final version imposes stricter carbon dioxide limits on states than was previously expected: a 32 percent cut by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, the White House said. Obama’s proposed version last year called only for a 30 percent cut.
Immediately, Obama’s plan became a point of controversy in the 2016 presidential race, with Hillary Rodham Clinton voicing her strong support and using it to criticize her GOP opponents for failing to offer a credible alternative.
“It’s a good plan, and as president, I’d defend it,” Clinton said.
On the Republican side, Marco Rubio, a Florida senator, predicted increases in electricity bills would be “catastrophic,” while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called the rule “irresponsible and overreaching.”
“Climate change will not be solved by grabbing power from states or slowly hollowing out our economy,” Bush said.
Obama’s rule assigns customized targets to each state, then leaves it up to the state to determine how to meet them. Prodded by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a number of Republican governors have said they simply won’t comply. If states refuse to submit plans, the EPA has the authority to impose its own plan, and McCarthy said the administration would release a model federal plan that states could adopt right away.
Another key change to the initial proposal marks a major shift for Obama on natural gas, which the president has championed as a “bridge fuel” whose growing use can help the U.S. wean itself off dirtier coal power while ramping up renewable energy capacity. The final version aims to keep the share of natural gas in the nation’s power mix at current levels.
Under the final rule, states will also have an additional two years — until 2022 — to comply, yielding to complaints that the original deadline was too soon. They’ll also have an additional year to submit their implementation plans to Washington.
In an attempt to encourage earlier action, the federal government plans to offer credits to states that boost renewable sources like wind and solar in 2020 and 2021. States could store those credits away to offset pollution emitted after the compliance period starts in 2022.
Twenty to 30 states were poised to join the energy industry in suing over the rule as soon as it’s formally published, said Scott Segal, a lobbyist with the firm Bracewell and Giuliani who represents utilities. The Obama administration has a mixed track record in fending off legal challenges to its climate rules. GOP leaders in Congress were also weighing various legislative maneuvers to try to block the rule.
The National Mining Association lambasted the plan and said it would ask the courts to put the rule on hold while legal challenges play out. On the other end of the spectrum, Michael Brune, the Sierra Club’s executive director, said in an interview that his organization planned to hold public rallies, put pressure on individual coal plants and “intervene as necessary in the courts” to defend the rule.
By clamping down on emissions, Obama is also working to increase his leverage and credibility with other nations whose commitments he’s seeking for a global climate treaty to be finalized later this year in Paris. As its contribution to that treaty, the U.S. has pledged to cut overall emissions 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025, compared to 2005.
“We’re positioning the United States as an international leader on climate change,” said Brian Deese, Obama’s senior adviser.
Power plants account for roughly one-third of all U.S. emissions of the heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming, making them the largest single source.
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The brother of Mullah Mohammad Omar on Sunday joined a growing chorus of opposition to the opaque selection of the late Taliban leader’s successor, indicating widening rifts within the militant group as it weighs whether to revive peace talks or intensify its 14-year insurgency in Afghanistan.
As the leadership crisis deepened, the Taliban released a statement from one of its most notorious commanders pledging loyalty to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, who was chosen to lead after the death of the Taliban’s reclusive, one-eyed founder was announced last week.
The statement quoted Jalaluddin Haqqani, the head of the Haqqani Network, a Pakistan-based outfit blamed for scores of complex attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, as calling for unity. The Taliban denied recent rumors that Haqqani, like Mullah Omar, had died in secret. Haqqani’s son Sirajuddin was named Mullah Mansoor’s deputy after his promotion.
The loss of Mullah Omar has raised concerns of a succession crisis that could splinter the group between relatively moderate figures who back Pakistan-mediated peace talks and more radical field commanders committed to overthrowing the Kabul government and reverting to the harsh Islamic rule of the 1990s.
Those commanders have made steady gains in recent months across northern Afghanistan — far from the group’s traditional heartland — as Afghan security forces have struggled in the absence of U.S. and NATO combat troops, who switched to a support and training role at the end of last year.
The Taliban announced that Mullah Mansoor was their new leader on Thursday and released a purported audio statement from him on Saturday in which he called for unity and warned of enemy propaganda aimed at dividing the group. The Taliban acknowledged Mullah Omar’s death last week, after the Afghan government said he had died in a Pakistani hospital two years ago.
The Taliban deny Mullah Omar ever left Afghanistan, but the secretive nature of his death raised the possibility that the senior Taliban leadership — a Supreme Council with just seven members — had concealed his death from the wider movement, which has tens of thousands of fighters.
Mullah Omar’s brother on Sunday joined a growing challenge to Mullah Mansoor’s leadership, telling The Associated Press he had been “selected” by a small clique of his own supporters.
Mullah Abdul Manan’s comments came after Mullah Omar’s son, Yacoub, also said the new leader did not have the support of the wider Taliban.
“There should be a (grand council), so everyone has a chance to choose their own leader. I do not accept this selection of Mullah Akhtar Mansoor because only a few chose him,” Mullah Abdul Manan said.
If Mullah Mansoor fails to hold the movement together, the ultimate beneficiary could be the Islamic State group, which has established a small but growing presence in Afghanistan over the past year, in part by recruiting disillusioned Taliban fighters.
An internal split could also jeopardize peace talks which began last month but were indefinitely postponed after the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death. Mullah Mansoor is widely seen as having pushed the Taliban into the negotiations at Pakistan’s bidding.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office said Sunday that he was in touch with Pakistani officials about “bringing peace and prosperity to both counties and to the region.”
The statement made no specific mention of the Taliban or Mullah Omar, who is widely thought to have been sheltered by Pakistan after he fled across the border during the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.
The statement said Ghani spoke to officials by video link from Germany, where he is recovering from foot surgery. He is expected to return to Kabul in the coming days, his office said.
Waheed Muzhda, a former bureaucrat in the Taliban’s 1996-2001 administration and now a political analyst, downplayed the importance of Mullah Omar’s relatives to the question of succession.
“Decisions made by the Taliban are made according to religious principles, not according to an inheritable legacy, so it won’t be considered necessary for Mullah Omar’s son to take the leadership role,” he said.
“The Taliban is not a political organization, they are fighting jihad against the Afghan government, and so need a person with experience and expertise in many things,” he said.
Associated Press writers Mirwais Khan, Humayoon Babur and Rahim Faiez contributed to this report.