New leadership changes atmosphere at Ferguson protests

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FERGUSON, MO (KTVI) - It is far from quiet in Ferguson but it is peaceful at a time of night when the past few nights things started getting dicey. There are hundreds of protesters lining both sides of West Florissant beginning here at that burned out QuikTrip. But, instead of police in riot gear blocking the street traffic is flowing and there isn't an armored vehicle in sight. Though, tactical teams are at the ready if things get out of hand.

It is all about a new approach. That includes a new man in control, Captain Ron Johnson, commander of Troop C of the Missouri Highway Patrol.  He grew up in this area, he is an African American, and Thursday he walked at the head of a march that came down West Florissant and ended at the spot where Mike Brown was shot to death Saturday night. This new, softer approach, which he said was something initiated by the county police chief late last night. There are  very few officers in sight and all they are asking is that the protesters not block traffic. Some officers even marched with the residents and they've been told instead of trying to break up groups of people. They should interact with them instead and that they are not to show up wearing gas masks. After the march, Capt. Johnson spoke with reporters.

"This is my community. A lot of people I saw walking in this march are people that I know. People whose homes I've been into and their kids have been in my home. So, it`s the old saying I`ve got a dog in this fight, I`ve got a big dog in this fight."

Paul Hampel, a reporter with our partners at the Post-Dispatch is tweeting tonight that county prosecutor Bob McCullogh said the Governor Nixon replacing Chief Belmar with Captain Johnson was illegal and disgraceful.  Adding that the governor has degenerated the men and women of the St. Louis County Police department and what they have done. McCullogh also says he has great respect for Capt. Johnson but he says the governor`s decision may have put a lot of people in danger.

Even though Captain Johnson has been a part of the police response in Ferguson all week, it certainly feels like there is a new sheriff in town.

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