By Alexander Bolton - 08/22/14 06:19 AM EDT
FERGUSON, Mo. — Angry street protests sparked here by the shooting of an unarmed black teenager reached a turning point early Friday morning as West Florissant Ave., the scene of clashes earlier in the week, remained calm for a second straight night.
Police arrested only seven people Thursday, the second consecutive day when the number of arrests has stayed in the single digits. Three of those detained are from Detroit.
Forty-seven people were arrested on Tuesday. That night, police sprayed mace and chased protesters around the commercial strip that has been the scene of protests since Michael Brown died on Aug. 9.
The violent clashes between police and protesters on Monday and Tuesday have become a national embarrassment for local law enforcement leaders.
Even Sam Dotson, the St. Louis metropolitan police chief, questioned the aggressive militarized response to protesters by St. Louis County officers.
At a press conference early Friday morning, Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol touted efforts to improve community policing.
He showed TV cameras a sock puppet he received earlier in the day as a gift from children during a visit to a local library, where volunteers held impromptu classes. Schools in Ferguson have remained closed over the past several days of civil unrest.
Johnson noted that a group of Missouri state troopers played a pickup game with some local kids after helping them set up a basketball net.
“This is what community policing is. These are the type of things that lead to understanding and harmony, and we’re going to continue to work with the people of this community,” he said.
The press conference capped a wearying day of social protest during which the temperature climbed to 97 degrees and the heat index broke 100. In the stifling heat, foot traffic along West Florissant was light, and the crowd at the evening’s protest march was smaller than previous nights.
The town's atmosphere changed after Attorney General Eric Holder visited Wednesday and met with Brown's parents.
He announced the Justice Department will examine whether local police are guilty of civil rights violations, a development that gave protesters hope their complaints were being heard in Washington.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) announced earlier Thursday that National Guard troops deployed to maintain order in Ferguson will begin to withdraw.
Johnson said the first installment would leave Friday.