“The violence we saw in areas of Ferguson last night cannot be repeated,” Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said Tuesday, announcing that he is sending hundreds more members of the National Guard to the city that saw intense looting on Monday night.
“Last night, criminals intent on lawlessness and destruction terrorized this community,” Nixon said, “burning buildings, firing gunshots, vandalizing storefronts, and looting family businesses — many for the second time.”
Nixon said he’d just returned from West Florissant Avenue, a focal point of the unrest. He called the situation there “a heartbreaking sight,” with residents afraid to go outside.
As a result, Nixon said, the National Guard’s presence will be “ramped up significantly in Ferguson,” with hundreds of additional Guardsmen joining the more than 700 members of the National Guard who were on duty when St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson over the shooting death of Michael Brown, 18.
Altogether, Nixon said, there will be 2,200 National Guardsmen in the region. And they’ll be focusing on keeping the peace and protecting property, a difference from Monday, when the force was primarily deployed in Clayton, Mo., and to protect the police department in Ferguson.
Other officials also spoke at Tuesday’s announcement, with Missouri State Police Col. Ronald K. Replogle summarizing, “Last night was a disaster.”
On Tuesday, some Ferguson residents were uncertain whether a more public show of force would help the situation.
“People get scared; they act out,” Joseph Kirkwood tells NPR’s Elise Hu.
Nixon said that his goal wasn’t “to shut the place down” but to return Ferguson to a status where people feel safe walking down the street.
As we recently reported, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles announced Tuesday that despite the grand jury’s decision, no final decision has been made on whether Wilson will return to duty. He cited an internal investigation of the shooting.