BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Riot-ravaged Benton Harbor (search) was calm Wednesday night as rain fell and people stayed off the streets after two nights of violence prompted an overnight curfew.
Officials had pledged to aggressively enforce the curfew for those 16 and under as state troopers and armored tanks were sent to patrol the mostly black city.
The rioting began Monday after the death of Terrance Shurn (search), 28, of Benton Harbor, whose speeding motorcycle crashed into a building as he was being chased by Benton Township police (search). Shurn was black, and the officers who chased him into the city are white.
Benton Harbor has been plagued for years by poverty, high unemployment and racial tensions.
The overnight curfew was already on the books for those 16 and under, as police said those are the ones involved in the rioting.
Steven McCoy (search), a member of the City Commission, pleaded for calm, saying: "Let's don't destroy our city. This is our city. When it's all said and done, it's going to take us to put it all together again."
No serious injuries were reported in Monday's violence. But late Tuesday, bottle-throwing residents overpowered the small police force and hundreds spilled into the streets, burning at least five buildings and beating or stabbing about a dozen people.
Two firefighters trying to reach a burning building near the crash scene were attacked by a mob, even though about 130 state troopers and 100 other officers armed with tear gas were on patrol.
It was 4 a.m. Wednesday before the violence was quelled. Benton Harbor City Manager Joel Patterson said 10 to 12 people were arrested and charged with civil disobedience. One person was charged with assault with a deadly weapon.
"It is so unnecessary. It is unbelievable to see this in our community," said Police Chief Samuel Harris.
Residents complained that they have long been harassed by the 25-member police force.
However, Harris said Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America": "We're basically predominantly a black community. Many of our police officers are white, but I seldom have complaints of the racial nature."
Area ministers walked through the area Wednesday evening, talking to residents and discouraging them from violence. Shurn's brother, Raynard, 33, also called for peace at a community meeting Wednesday.
"I would say to the people of Benton Harbor that I feel your pain, your frustration and, yes, your anger," he said. "But I ask you and I beg you, please stop the violence."
Raynard Shurn, who spent 10 years as a city police officer, said several community leaders assured him there would be a "fair and just" investigation into his brother's death.
"I trust them completely and ask that you do the same," he said.
Benton Harbor, a city of 12,000 people situated on Lake Michigan about 100 miles east of Chicago, is 92 percent black, according to the 2000 census. Boarded-up buildings dot the community, and the average unemployment rate last year was 25 percent. Appliance maker Whirlpool is headquartered in Benton Harbor, but on the outskirts of town.
It is separated by a river bridge from St. Joseph, which offers a stark contrast: The city of 8,800 is 90 percent white, bustles with trendy restaurants, boutiques, offices and a picturesque waterfront, and had an average unemployment rate last year of 2 percent.
"There's no excuse for us not having the same opportunities for jobs" and a better way of life, said Ralph Crenshaw, a Benton Harbor city commissioner and an uncle of Shurn.
Alex Kotlowitz wrote about the two cities and their racial divisions in the 1998 book "The Other Side of the River," which chronicled an investigation into the 1991 death of a black teenager last seen in St. Joseph.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm said 150 state troopers would be on the streets overnight to keep the peace. Benton Harbor's own police force numbers just 26.
"You don't want to overreact and cause an unintended consequence, which is community backlash even greater than the one we've seen," she said. "We want to proceed with great caution."
Benton Township officials promised to examine their policy on high-speed police chases after about 70 residents and city officials questioned them at a public meeting Tuesday night.
Police said that they did not know why Shurn fled officers. But they said his license had been suspended and officers found a small amount of marijuana on him after the crash.
Shurn's aunt, Rosemary Shurn, said the several arrests on her nephew's record were for minor offenses. "He had turned his life around and changed," she said.
"There's got to be another solution. I can understand where these children are coming from. They've lost hope. They're in poverty but it's not the way to go about it. I don't think it's the way to go about it," she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.