As a grand jury considers whether Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson should face criminal charges over the shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, many in the St. Louis suburb are calling for calm, even as they prepare for what could be a sharp public reaction to the jury’s decision.
Saying “the grand jury is still gathering information,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the jury will meet next week.
Late Friday and early Saturday, reports emerged that the grand jury was still in session and had not reached a decision. But after midday, several media outlets began reporting that an announcement won’t come until after the jurors reconvene Monday.
Here are the latest updates we’re seeing from Ferguson; we’ll be adding to this post as news arrives:
The family of Michael Brown is asking people to wear yellow shirts and act as peacekeepers should any demonstrations threaten to escalate into violence. The slain man’s father, Michael Brown Sr., spent part of Saturday handing out free Thanksgiving turkeys to needy families, carrying them past a memorial erected on the street where his son died on Aug. 9.
One day ago, the jury’s decision seemed imminent. St. Louis County officials touched off a wave of media speculation Friday afternoon when they began planning a news conference. But that notice was only an explanation of the county’s plan; it never included a date or time for the announcement.
The owner of a gold and jewelry store that was broken into in August tells Vice News that he’s been taking inventory out of the shop for the past two Fridays, and bringing it back on Mondays.
Vice also says gun store owners in the St. Louis area are hiring private military contractors to guard the movement of their stores’ wares as they remove them. The site adds, “more than 300 private military contractors… have been contracted for work in direct response to Ferguson security concerns.”
Despite those security concerns, the large demonstrations, in which a community vented its frustration over a white police officer’s killing of a black 18-year-old, have brought far less damage to Ferguson than recent hailstorms brought to St. Louis, the Post-Dispatch says.
“The protests have not caused death or widespread destruction,” the newspaper says in its “by the numbers” accounting. “They have sparked conversations about inequality and structural racism, and forced concessions that the region’s criminal justice system is broken.”
Friday afternoon, “St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said that there have been talks between police officials and protest groups,” St. Louis Public Radio reports.
The mayor “said police agreed with 11 of the 19 so-called ‘rules of engagement’ offered up this month by the group, Hands Up United,” the station adds.
The areas of agreement include aiming for “common sense agreements” and helping people avoid protest areas, along with giving demonstrators “latitude” to voice their opinions.
But police refused to agree on two other issues, involving tolerating minor law infractions and agreeing on safe havens for protesters.
While the timing of the grand jury announcement has been the topic of much speculation, school officials have requested that the news not come out during school hours. At least one local school district near Ferguson has decided to extend next week’s Thanksgiving holiday to Monday and Tuesday; other schools say they might cut classes short if the jury’s decision comes out while they’re in session.
Early Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder issued guidance to police about deploying peaceful crowd control, stressing the need to “preserve the peace and maintain the public trust at all times – particularly in moments of heightened community tension.”