A grand jury is expected to deliver its decision in the Michael Brown case as soon as this weekend, and the community of Ferguson, Mo., is worried that reactions could be violent.
Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, was fatally shot by a white Ferguson police officer earlier this year, setting off months of protests. Should the grand jury side with officer Darren Wilson’s version of events, in which Brown had reached for Wilson’s weapon and set off a physical struggle, authorities worry the protests could return and escalate.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said today in a press conference that “violence will not be tolerated.” Nixon said people can protest, but they must “express themselves peacefully, without being threatened by individuals intent on creating violence and disorder.”
Nixon said he will activate the National Guard to deal with any unrest, and that the Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis County Police, and St. Louis city police will work together to deal with any fallout from the grand jury decision.
St. Louis Public Radio reports the mood in Ferguson is tense:
In Ferguson, nearly every store window is boarded up along West Florissant Avenue. Police departments have stocked riot gear and held trainings to respond to potential civil unrest. And protesters have held sessions to organize their own response.
In many ways, it feels like the St. Louis region is holding its breath awaiting the grand jury’s decision.
St. Louis Public Radio also reports that church leaders in the area plan to establish “safe spaces” with food and supplies for those coming to protest. And the station says authorities have spent thousands of dollars preparing:
According to an equipment list breakdown provided by St. Louis County Police, the department has spent $122,668.96 to purchase additional protective gear, uniform items, and to replenish tactical stock including pepper balls, sock rounds and CS (tear) gas canisters.
An additional $50,000 has been set aside to repair police vehicles. County police spokesperson Brian Schellman said two additional vehicles were totaled during the protests, and will be replaced.
Protestors around the country also are preparing. A group called the Ferguson National Response Network has compiled a website listing 35 cities where protests will take place the day after the grand jury announcement.
Meanwhile, Brown’s parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr. spoke to the United Nations Committee Against Torture on Tuesday, claiming that the killing of their son, and the force used by police officers on protesters in the aftermath, violate the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Their testimony was not open to the public, but they have released a written statement on the issue.
The statement has several recommendations. It calls for the immediate arrest of Officer Darren Wilson, the man who killed Brown, as well as an end to “racial profiling and racially-biased police harassment.” The document also asks for guidelines and regulations on the use of force and a nationwide federal investigation into the “systematic police brutality and harassment in black and brown communities.”
From Geneva, Switzerland, Brown’s mother told CNN that she hopes protests regarding the case remain calm.
“Once again, we just want peaceful protests … only positive things,” McSpadden said. “Pause, plan and prepare. We don’t want anyone … acting before thinking, because it wouldn’t serve us any purpose. It wouldn’t do us any good.”