FERGUSON, Mo. (USA TODAY) -- The streets where Michael Brown's death brought angry protests were calm again Thursday and early Friday morning, with the collective mood more reflective of a street fair than protest.
"It was another good night,'' Missouri State Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said at a 1 a.m. briefing. "We're heading toward a sense of peace for our community. Through 12:30 a.m., there were just seven arrests, including five for failing to disperse.
Thursday night, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill strolled among the relatively sparse crowds while vendors hawked T-shirts. The Missouri Democrat expressed confidence that the violent protests that gripped this community of 21,000 for much of the past 11 days are over. "I think it's time for a lot of the (media) to leave here, she said.
After a night of relative calm Wednesday and into early Thursday morning Gov. Jay Nixon ordered National Guard troops to begin withdrawing from Ferguson. Johnson said he expected troops would begin leaving later Friday.
Earlier Thursday, along West Florissant Avenue, the scene of nightly demonstrations, there was a sense of normalcy. People strolled to stores and city buses were back on schedule.
The spot where Brown, 18, was killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson Aug. 9 was quiet, save for a few onlookers and reporters who took photos of the flowers, candles and stuffed animals left in memoriam. A preliminary autopsy found Brown was shot six times, including twice in the head.
Nixon sent troops into Ferguson Monday to protect state troopers and police trying to cope with increasingly violent streets demonstrations after the death of the unarmed teen.
The soldiers set up checkpoints in and out of the police command center, which is located in a shopping center about a quarter mile away from the site of most of the protests.
"I greatly appreciate the men and women of the Missouri National Guard for successfully carrying out the specific, limited mission of protecting the Unified Command Center so that law enforcement officers could focus on the important work of increasing communication within the community, restoring trust, and protecting the people and property of Ferguson," Nixon said in a statement.
Attorney General Eric Holder, in Ferguson Wednesday, said Thursday in Washington that he found a "real fracture" among the people of Ferguson during his brief visit but also "a desire to be seen as equals, a real desire to have healing."
"Out of this tragedy comes a great opportunity to reforming that community," Holder told reporters.
Holder also said the Justice Department was "keeping all options open" in its review of the Ferguson shooting, including a possible examination of whether the local police department engaged in a pattern of excessive conduct.
McCaskill told the Associated Press that all of the physical evidence from the case was being flown Thursday from St. Louis to the FBI forensics lab in Quantico, VA. The evidence includes shell casings and trajectories, blood patterns and clothing, she said.
"The only thing you have to test the credibility of eyewitnesses to a shooting like this is in fact the physical evidence," McCaskill said. "I'm hopeful the forensic evidence will be clear and will shed a lot more light on what the facts were."
Earlier Thursday, about 150 protesters rallied outside the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, demanding that St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch, who is presenting the Brown shooting to a grand jury, be removed from the case.
The panel is investigating whether Wilson should be criminally charged in the case. The group planned to deliver 70,000 signatures from people around the USA calling for McCulloch's removal. Some fear McCulloch's close ties to police — his father was killed on duty and other family members have worked for the police department — would prevent him from being fair and impartial.
McCulloch said in a statement that he has "no intention of walking away from the responsibilities and duties entrusted to me by the people of this community."
Nixon said Tuesday that he is not asking McCulloch to recuse himself. "There is a well-established process by which a prosecutor can recuse themselves from a pending investigation, and a special prosecutor be appointed,'' Nixon said. "Departing from this established process could unnecessarily inject legal uncertainty into this matter and potentially jeopardize the prosecution."
In a Thursday interview with TV station KSDK, Nixon reiterated that he would not remove McCulloch.
"You have to trust those democratically elected processes in place," Nixon said. "So no, I won't be making that move. I think its best, you know, you've got dual investigations and prosecutions going on at the same time, federal and state. There's a great deal of attention on all this sort of stuff, I think each of us that have significant and separate responsibilities, and should continue to get to the task of accomplishing those as efficiently, effectively, fairly as possible, that will lead to justice."
Meanwhile, a new national Pew Research Center poll finds that black and white Americans are sharply divided over the broader racial implications of the Brown shooting and its aftermath. Among blacks, 80% say the shooting "raises important issues about race," and 18% say "race is getting more attention than it deserves."
Just 37% of whites polled say the case raises important racial issues,and 47% say race is getting more attention than it deserves. The poll of 1,000 adults was conducted Aug. 14-17 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.
Contributing: Doug Stanglin, Kevin Johnson and Jonathan Shorman, of the Springfield News-Leader.