Social media users have been sharing many incredible images coming out of Ferguson, Missouri, as tensions between police and demonstrators protesting the killing of an unarmed black teenager continue to flare.

But one of the most powerful photos making the rounds on Twitter was taken hundreds of kilometres away at Howard University, the historically black college in Washington, as incoming students gathered in an auditorium for a move-in meeting.

The photo, showing hundreds of students with their hands in the air, was organised by Khalil Saadiq, a member of the Howard University Student Association, and promoted by the school.

It pays tribute to 18-year-old Michael Brown, who witnesses said raised his hands in the air when he was shot and killed by police.

"We are proud of our students who have united peacefully to show they will not stand for the senseless violence anymore," the school said in a statement.

"Thank you to the Howard University Student Association for leading and organising this display of solidarity. #HandsUpDontShoot"

Megan Sims, one of the first students to tweet the photo, told Mother Jones magazine that the student body collectively "felt we needed to respond to the Mike Brown issue."

The image was later shared on Twitter by Benjamin Crump, the attorney for the family of Trayvon Martin, who is now representing Brown's parents.

The #HandsUpDontShoot hashtag has continued to go viral as the world offers its support for Michael Brown.

For the fourth straight night, the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, erupted as heavily armed police officers fired tear gas, smoke bombs and rubber bullets at demonstrators protesting Brown's death.

The Missouri Highway Patrol seized control of the St. Louis suburb this morning, stripping local police of their law-enforcement authority after four days of clashes between officers in riot gear and furious crowds.

An explosive device deployed by police flies in the air as police and protesters clash. Photo: AP.

The intervention, ordered by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, came as President Barack Obama spoke publicly for the first time about Saturday's fatal shooting and the subsequent violence that has threatened to tear apart Ferguson, a town that is nearly 70 percent black patrolled by a nearly all-white police force.

Obama said there was "no excuse" for violence either against the police or by officers against peaceful protesters.

Nixon's promise to ease the deep racial tensions was swiftly put to the test as demonstrators gathered again Thursday evening in the neighborhood where looters smashed and burned businesses on Sunday and police repeatedly fired tear gas and smoke bombs.

A protester takes shelter from smoke billowing around him. Photo: AP.

The change was meant to ensure "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.

"Ferguson will not be defined as a community that was torn apart by violence but will be known as a community that pulled together to overcome it," the governor said at a news conference in the nearby community of Normandy.

Protesters try unsuccessfully to light a Molotov cocktail. Photo: AP.

Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, who is black, said he grew up in the area and "it means a lot to me personally that we break this cycle of violence." He said he planned to keep heavily armoured vehicles away from the scene and told his officers not to bring their tear gas masks.

By late afternoon, Johnson was walking down the street with a group of more than 1000 protesters as they chanted "Hands up, don't shoot".

Police officers briefly detain a person in Ferguson, Missouri. Photo: AP.

Johnson planned to talk to the demonstrators throughout the night.

"We're going to have some conversations with them and get an understanding of what's going on."

Morning news break – August 15

Popular videos

Our Picks

Follow Us

More from The West