Ferguson, Missouri (CNN) — State troopers are taking over security in this St. Louis suburb after days of clashes between local police and protesters.
Gov. Jay Nixon said he decided to put the Missouri State Highway Patrol in charge of security because “at this particular point, the attitudes weren’t improving, and the blocks towards expression appeared to be a flashpoint.”
Lately, the community of Ferguson, which has been the scene of demonstrations and a strong police response in the wake of a weekend police shooting that left teenager Michael Brown dead, has looked “more like a war zone, and it’s not acceptable,” Nixon said.
Now, authorities — who’ve faced accusations that they’ve used excessive force in response to demonstrations — will be taking a different tack in an effort to calm tensions, officials said Thursday.
“We’re all about making sure that we allow peaceful and appropriate protests, that we use force only when necessary, that we step back a little bit and let some of the energy be felt in this region, appropriately,” Nixon said
Chosen by the state’s governor to head up the new security operation, Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said he planned to meet with protesters Thursday.
“We are going to have a different approach and have the approach that we’re in this together,” he said.
As groups of protesters grew Thursday evening, the demonstrations were calm.
Some said they were prepared for police aggression, despite what authorities have promised.
“Gas me, shoot me, I will stand my ground,” one protester’s sign said.
Time will tell if the new police tactics work, said Patricia Bynes, Democratic committeewoman for Ferguson Township.
“Things usually tend to turn once the sun starts going down. … I think the test is going to be this evening,” she said.
Police chief: City is a ‘powder keg’
Earlier Thursday, Ferguson’s police chief described the city as a “powder keg.”
“The whole situation is not good at this point,” Chief Thomas Jackson said a day after clashes in which police fired smoke bombs, tear gas and rubber pellets at protesters who he said had thrown firebombs at police and engaged in gunfire.
Jackson said police would talk about changing “not only the tactics but also the appearance” of law enforcement.
U.S. Justice Department officials have also offered to assist local authorities control crowds “without relying on unnecessarily extreme displays of force,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement Thursday. The offer has been accepted, he said.
Jackson said protesters also have to do their share by remaining peaceful.
“We need everybody to tone it down,” he said.