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Weary of violence, Ferguson leaders promise change, appeal for calm

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By Eliott C. McLaughlin, Michael Pearson and Holly Yan

(CNN) -- Weary of the violence wracking their city, Ferguson, Missouri, leaders issued a plea for calm Tuesday, promising they would raise money to equip police officers with dash and vest cams, among other things.


Such equipment could have answered days ago the question echoing across the country: Did Michael Brown have to die?

"It is our hope that as we continue to work for the wellbeing of Ferguson, residents will stay home at night, allow peace to settle in, and allow for the justice process to take its course," city officials said in a statement. "We owe it to our children to be able to return to school and work together peacefully for Ferguson's future."

Other leaders chimed in, adding their voices to the call for peace after 10 days of increasingly violent protests over the shooting of Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American who died on August 9 after being shot by a white police officer.

City police don't have installed dash or vest cameras, and no known video of the shooting exists.

Dueling accounts of what happened have fueled anger and distrust in the largely African-American community, where residents have reported widespread discrimination at the hands of a predominantly white police force.

"Rioting is the language of the unheard, and so Individuals are taking actions," said Art McCoy, a pastor and former superintendent of the Ferguson-Florissant School District.

"But we need to tell the individuals that there's a productive way of doing it and that violence has no place here," he said. "Violence brought us to this point right now. Violence has no place here in this situation."

On Monday and early Tuesday, stun grenades and tear gas canisters arced through the night sky and into crowds of protesters after police said they had been targeted with rocks, Molotov cocktails and gunfire.

Two people were shot -- not by police, authorities said. Four officers were injured. Police arrested at least 75 people for failure to disperse Monday and early Tuesday, St. Louis County jail officials said Tuesday. Two were arrested on weapons charges and another for interfering with an officer.

Police and protesters blamed outside agitators for the gunplay and violence. According to jail records, many of those arrested were local residents. Others came from New York, California, Texas and Alabama.

"What we are dealing with right now are two groups of people," Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal told CNN on Tuesday. "One, protesters who are peacefully demonstrating, expressing their First Amendment rights. And then we have a smaller group of people who have been infiltrating themselves in the crowds and creating all of this unrest."

As police and protesters search for a way to stop the chaos, Brown's parents appeared on NBC's "Today" show to appeal for fairness and say there's just one way out of all this.

"Justice," Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, told the NBC show. "Justice will bring peace, I believe."

Her son's funeral will be on Monday, according to Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the family.

Meanwhile, supporters of the embattled officer are increasingly making their voices heard. Supporters held a rally in St. Louis this week, and as of Tuesday, more than 600 people had donated more than $25,000 to a fund for Darren Wilson.

"This is truly remarkable! Thank you to all of those who are standing behind Darren," a post on the fund-raising page read. "We honestly could not ask for better supporters. Even just a simple prayer or encouraging note really does make a difference to us!"

Situation deteriorated

Monday evening began peacefully enough.

For almost two hours, police in riot gear formed a barricade and stood watch as hundreds of protesters marched in a single-file line that stretched so long that different parts chanted different slogans.

"Hands up, don't shoot," some repeated. "No justice, no peace," others said. Still others sang church hymns.

But the scene quickly deteriorated after a handful of protesters threw rocks, bottles and Molotov cocktails at police. Officers responded by firing stun grenades and tear gas canisters.

Amid the frenzy, gunshots could be heard. Police found two people shot at the protest site, said Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is in charge of protest security.

One group of protesters made a barricade with portable toilets and orange cones. Some ripped out street signs, including a symbolic "Do Not Enter" sign.

Armored vehicles rolled down the streets with officers perched atop, their hands steadied on guns. Other officers darted into the protest crowd to make an occasional arrest before retreating.

Johnson said that a building and an unoccupied house were set on fire, and that his officers came under "heavy gunfire."

"We have been criticized for using SWAT trucks during protests. We did not deploy them into crowds until things deteriorated," he said. "Once again, not a single bullet was fired by officers despite coming under heavy attack."

Ferguson: We'll learn from this

In their statement Tuesday, Ferguson leaders said they would work to recruit more African-Americans to join the city's police force and that of surrounding communities, strive to rebuild the city's business district and work on youth programs.

"We plan to learn from this tragedy, as we further provide for the safety of our residents and businesses and progress our community through reconciliation and healing," the officials said.

McCoy, the pastor and former school district superintendent, said what the community needs most is "sustained, united leadership" -- among protesters and community leaders alike.

"It's easy to come on one day, it's easy to come for one week," he said." It's even been done for a month. But sustained, united leadership, white, black, brown, all in between to understand and to talk about what we need to do to make our community better."

Parents speak out

Monday's chaos followed a day rich in developments, including details of a private autopsy, an account said to echo what Officer Wilson reportedly says happened, and an open letter to the Brown family written by the mother of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager killed in a scuffle with neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.

The autopsy, conducted for the Brown family, showed that Brown had been shot at least six times, including twice in the head. The findings are more than enough to justify Wilson's arrest, Brown family attorney Daryl Parks said Monday.

On "Today," Brown's father, Michael Brown Sr., said the autopsy didn't answer the family's one key question: Why?

"What was the cause of that excessive force?" he said. "Nobody deserved that."

A federal medical examiner conducted a separate autopsy Monday at the Justice Department's request, but those results will not be released -- not even to Brown's family -- until a federal civil rights investigation is complete, law enforcement sources said on condition of anonymity Tuesday.

Also on Monday, an account emerged of a telephone call to "The Dana Show" on the Radio America network from a woman claiming to know Wilson's version of events. According to the account -- which a source with detailed knowledge of the investigation said tracks with Wilson's version of events -- Brown rushed Wilson in the moments before the shooting.

Witnesses who have come forward publicly say Brown was standing with his hands in the air when he was shot.

Meanwhile, in her open letter, published Monday by Time, Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, told the Brown family that good will come of their sons' deaths.

"While we fight injustice, we will also hold ourselves to an appropriate level of intelligent advocacy," she wrote. "If they refuse to hear us, we will make them feel us. Some will mistake that last statement as being negatively provocative. But feeling us means feeling our pain; imagining our plight as parents of slain children."

But first, the Browns must mourn their son, she told CNN on Tuesday.

"He needs to be buried and he needs to be laid to rest," she said.

What's next?

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to visit Ferguson on Wednesday to check in on the Justice Department's civil rights investigation into Brown's death.

President Barack Obama, however, won't travel there, at least not now, a senior White House official said. His presence would strain already taxed law enforcement, the official said.

A grand jury could begin to hear testimony from witnesses and decide on whether to return an indictment in the case as early as Wednesday.

Meanwhile, fallout continues to affect the community.

The Ferguson-Florissant School District has canceled school for the week, and two nearby districts -- Jennings and Riverview Gardens -- opted to remain closed again Tuesday as well, according to CNN affiliate KMOV.

Some businesses have also been looted or burned, prompting some store owners to arm themselves and stand guard over their shops, according to local media reports.

Eliott C. McLaughlin reported from Ferguson. Michael Pearson and Holly Yan reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN's Dana Ford, Jim Acosta, Jean Casarez, Cristy Lenz, Eric Marrapodi, Evan Perez and Mayra Cuevas also contributed to this report.

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