FERGUSON, MO – With a grand jury decision in the Wilson-Brown case expected the week of November 17, and President Obama reportedly saying he hopes the people referred to as protestors “stay the course,” Republican Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency.
While many pundits in the media, and hundreds on Twitter, interpret Nixon’s move as indicating the grand jury’s decision may favour Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, Nixon said “there is the possibility of expanded unrest” regardless of the outcome.
Nixon’s November 17 executive order also decreed that the state is responsible for protecting the right of peaceful assembly and “citizens and businesses must be protected from violence and damage.”
He called in the Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis County Police Department, and authorized the adjunct general to call up the National Guard.
The Ferguson City Council issued a statement on November 12 supporting people’s First Amendment protections but also reminding them of the law.“While police forces will continue to show patience and understanding for the first amendment rights of demonstrators wishing to express themselves, all municipal laws will continue to be enforced,” Council stated.
The Don’t Shoot Coalition, made up of 50 local organizations, called for peace in a November 5 statement but said the post-decision response will depend on law enforcement.
“If Officer Wilson is not indicted, we will do our part to try to de-escalate violence without de-escalating action,” said Don’t Shoot co-chair Michael T. McPhearson, executive director of Veterans For Peace. “We are providing a number of supports to promote a peaceful response, but nothing will make a difference unless the police do their part by giving protesters adequate space. That’s the key to peaceful outcomes.”
The coalition called for a de-militarized response, advance notice of the grand jury’s announcement, and respect safe spaces as off limits.
“If we see violence, make no mistake, the responsibility for it lies with law enforcement,” said organizer and Don’t Shoot member Damon Davis. “Since the day they left Michael Brown’s body in the street for more than four hours, the government has failed to answer the cries of the public time and again. There has been no accountability or transparency. It’s wrong to show that kind of the disregard for people’s feelings and people react.”
Appearing before a United Nations Committee Against Torture November 12, Michael Brown, Sr., said he was speaking for his son, and called for peace from everyone involved.
“We will work to promote nonviolence, peace, and understanding, and to improve human rights and social justice policies to unite governments around the world to eliminate the human rights violations that result from racial profiling and police violence in an effort to prioritize, protect, empower, and strengthen the value and dignity of life for all people, especially men and women of color and their children,” he said.