TIME justice

FBI Sends 100 Agents to Ferguson Ahead of Grand Jury Decision

Arrests have already been made for firearm charges

The FBI has sent some 100 agents to the St. Louis area to prepare for the grand jury decision on whether to indict the police officer who shot the unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

A decision by the grand jury is expected within days, and there are signs that unrest is brewing. The FBI arrested two men earlier this week near Ferguson on firearms charges as part of the increased law enforcement presence in the St. Louis suburb, CBS reports.

The 100 FBI agents were ordered to mobilize and arrive in Ferguson Friday, and additional personnel have been put on alert so they can be called in as a second emergency wave, ABC reports.

President Obama, Brown’s family, and Attorney General Eric Holder have urged protestors to remain peaceful.

[ABC]

TIME justice

Obama Tells Ferguson to ‘Keep Protests Peaceful’

Woman stops to visit the memorial set up where Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson
A woman stops to visit the memorial set up where Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri, Nov. 22, 2014. Jim Young—Reuters

"Using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to rule of law, contrary to who we are"

President Barack Obama urged protestors in Ferguson to remain peaceful as they await the grand jury’s decision in this summer’s fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man.

“I think first and foremost, keep protests peaceful,” Obama said in an interview, the Associated Press reports. “This is a country that allows everybody to express their views, allows them to peacefully assemble, to protest actions that they think are unjust. But using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to rule of law, contrary to who we are.”

A grand jury decision on whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 death of 18-year-old Michael Brown is due any day now, and police are preparing for further unrest in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.

Michael Brown senior, the victim’s father said “Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain.”

[AP]

TIME Crime

Michael Brown’s Family Calls for Calm as Ferguson Grand Jury Nears Decision

Police form a line opposite of protesters in front of the police station on Nov. 19, 2014.
Police form a line opposite of protesters in front of the police station on Nov. 19, 2014. Huy Mach—St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Polaris

"They do not advocate any violence, any looting, any rioting"

The family of the unarmed black teenager whose shooting death at the hands of a white police officer sparked violent protests in Ferguson, Mo., earlier this year appealed for calm Friday as a grand jury nears its decision on whether or not to charge the officer.

“They do not advocate any violence, any looting, any rioting,” Anthony Gray, an attorney for Michael Brown’s family, said during a news conference. The family called on Ferguson residents to keep their protests peaceful regardless of whether or not the grand jury charges Officer Darren Wilson in Brown’s death.

Ferguson has been on edge ahead of the grand jury’s decision, which is expected to come in a matter of days if not sooner, with sporadic protests breaking out and isolated arrests.

Brown’s family members aren’t the only ones calling for calm as the St. Louis County grand jury deliberates. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a preemptive state of emergency Tuesday, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made a plea for any protests to be peaceful in a video Friday.

“History has also shown that the most successful and enduring movements for change are those that adhere to nonaggression and non-violence,” Holder said. “I ask all those who seek to lend their voices to important causes and discussions and seek to elevate these vital conversations… to do so in a way that respects the gravity of their subject matter.”

TIME justice

Michael Brown Sr. Appeals for Calm Ahead of Grand Jury Decision

"I do not want my son's death to be in vain"

The father of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. this summer, released a video Thursday asking people not to “hurt others” or “destroy property” ahead of a grand jury decision into whether the officer will be indicted in the killing.

“No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain,” Michael Brown, Sr. said in the video. “I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region for everyone…Let’s work together to create change for all people regardless of race.”

The shooting of Brown by Officer Darren Wilson sparked sometimes violent protests in Ferguson this August, exposing simmering racial tensions in the St. Louis suburb.

Protestors gathered again in below freezing temperatures outside the courthouse to await the grand jury’s return on the case in the past week. They have been met by officers in riot gear. Police have already arrested five people and are bracing for the verdict.

TIME Crime

Protesters Arrested in Ferguson as Grand Jury Nears Its Decision

It marked the first such arrests in about a week.

Several people were arrested at a protest in Ferguson, Mo., on Wednesday night calling for the officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teen in August to be charged by a grand jury.

The protesters tried to block a street outside the city police station during a demonstration that drew dozens of people in sub-freezing temperatures, Reuters reports. The arrests were the first in a week, and came amid heightened security as the grand jury nears its decision after some three months of deliberating.

Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency on Monday, in anticipation of the public response to the grand jury decision about whether Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson will be charged in the August 9 killing of Michael Brown.

[Reuters]

TIME Crime

Missouri Governor Declares State of Emergency Ahead of Grand Jury Decision

Demonstrators yell "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" alongside a highway overpass to voice their opinions as the area awaits a grand jury decision on Nov. 15, 2014 near Ferguson, Missouri.
Demonstrators yell "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" alongside a highway overpass to voice their opinions as the area awaits a grand jury decision on Nov. 15, 2014 near Ferguson, Missouri. Joe Raedle—`Getty Images

Activates National Guard to keep the peace if there is unrest following the Grand Jury's decision

Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in Missouri on Monday, in anticipation of the public response to a grand jury decision about whether Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson will be charged in the August 9 killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

Citing the “possibility of expanded unrest,” Nixon announced that the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the St. Louis County Police Department, and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department would operate together as a “Unified Command” to keep the peace in the event that the findings of the investigation provoke further violence in Ferguson and St. Louis.

He also mobilized the National Guard and any reserve officers into active service, and specified that this Unified Command could expand to other jurisdictions to protect civil rights and public safety. This means that even though there are 90 municipalities in St. Louis County, the Unified Command would have equal authority in all of them (as opposed to individual police forces claiming authority over individual towns.)

Legal experts say that the move, while unusual, could help Nixon maintain a sense of order if the protests lead to the sort of tumult that followed the days and weeks after Brown’s August death. “You’ve got all these various civil authorities, but they’re not in any way a unified command structure,” says Michael Wolff, Dean of the Saint Louis University School of Law and former chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court. He also noted that this may help avoid repeating the mistakes made in the the police’s response to the initial Ferguson protests, which “showed poor command structure, and poor discipline.”

“If there is unrest, he won’t be coming late to what’s going on,” says Peter Joy, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis. “And it’s a signal that if there is violence, there will be a coordinated response.”

Many protesters have been trying to plan a coordinated response in the event that Wilson is not charged. The possibility that the grand jury would not deliver an indictment and the fears about what could result have led to heightened tensions in the St. Louis region, as Kristina Sauerwein reported for TIME.

At the Metro Shooting Supplies gun shop in Bridgeton, the sense of threat has driven record sales, including more than 100 handguns and other weapons sold over a three-day stretch ending last Sunday. Shooting lessons are booked through 2015. “You can literally see the fear in people’s eyes,” says owner Steve King. “People are anticipating far worse than last time.”

Most groups are emphasizing a nonviolent response, but Nixon’s declaration of a state of emergency underscores the potential worst case scenarios. Nixon’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“If there are peaceful protests as a result of whatever the decision is, then it’s a better-safe-than-sorry situation,” Joy says. I hope in hindsight this is looked at as a precaution that didn’t end up being necessary.”

Read next: U.S. Cities Brace for Unrest As Ferguson Grand Jury Decision Nears

TIME Crime

U.S. Cities Brace for Unrest As Ferguson Grand Jury Decision Nears

Demonstrators yell "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" alongside a highway overpass to voice their opinions as the area awaits a grand jury decision near Ferguson, Mo. on Nov. 15, 2014.
Demonstrators yell "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" alongside a highway overpass to voice their opinions as the area awaits a grand jury decision near Ferguson, Mo. on Nov. 15, 2014. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Jury will decide whether Officer Darren Wilson should be indicted for the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown

(BOSTON) — From Boston to Los Angeles, police departments are bracing for large demonstrations when a grand jury decides whether to indict a white police officer who killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.

The St. Louis County grand jury, which has been meeting since Aug. 20, is expected to decide this month whether Officer Darren Wilson is charged with a crime for killing 18-year-old Michael Brown after ordering him and a friend to stop walking in the street on Aug. 9.

The shooting has led to tension with police and a string of unruly protests there and brought worldwide attention to the formerly obscure St. Louis suburb, where more than half the population is black but few police officers are.

For some cities, a decision in the racially charged case will, inevitably, reignite long-simmering debates over local police relations with minority communities.

“It’s definitely on our radar,” said Lt. Michael McCarthy, police spokesman in Boston, where police leaders met privately Wednesday to discuss preparations. “Common sense tells you the timeline is getting close. We’re just trying to prepare in case something does step off, so we are ready to go with it.”

In Los Angeles, rocked by riots in 1992 after the acquittal of police officers in the videotaped beating of Rodney King, police officials say they’ve been in touch with their counterparts in Missouri, where Gov. Jay Nixon and St. Louis-area law enforcement held a news conference this week on their own preparations.

“Naturally, we always pay attention,” said Cmdr. Andrew Smith, a police spokesman. “We saw what happened when there were protests over there and how oftentimes protests spill from one part of the country to another.”

In Las Vegas, police joined pastors and other community leaders this week to call for restraint at a rally tentatively planned northwest of the casino strip when a decision comes.

Activists in Ferguson met Saturday to map out their protest plans. Meeting organizers encouraged group members to provide their names upon arrest as Darren Wilson or Michael Brown to make it more difficult for police to process them.

In a neighboring town, Berkeley, officials this week passed out fliers urging residents to be prepared for unrest just as they would a major storm — with plenty of food, water and medicine in case they’re unable to leave home for several days.

In Boston, a group called Black Lives Matter, which has chapters in other major cities, is organizing a rally in front of the police district office in the Roxbury neighborhood the day after an indictment decision.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, police are expecting demonstrations after having dealt with a string of angry protests following a March police shooting of a homeless camper and more than 40 police shootings since 2010.

Philadelphia police spokesman Lt. John Stanford said he anticipated his city will see demonstrations, regardless of what the grand jury returns.

But big-city police departments stressed they’re well-equipped to handle crowds. Many saw large but mostly peaceful demonstrations following the 2013 not-guilty verdict in the slaying of Florida teen Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman. In New York, hundreds of protesters marched from Union Square north to Times Square, where a sit-in caused gridlock.

The New York Police Department, the largest in the nation, is “trained to move swiftly and handle events as they come up,” spokesman Stephen Davis said.

In Boston, McCarthy said the city’s 2,200 sworn police officers have dealt with the range of public actions, from sports fans spontaneously streaming into the streets following championship victories to protest movements like Occupy.

“The good thing is that our relationships here with the community are much better than they are around the world,” he said. “People look to us as a model. Boston is not Ferguson.”

TIME justice

Officer Darren Wilson Can Remain a Ferguson Cop if Not Indicted

The grand jury decision is expected as early as this weekend

The cop who fatally shot unarmed teen Michael Brown can return to active duty if he isn’t indicted by a grand jury, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said.

Jackson said that Officer Darren Wilson would likely be fired if the grand jury does return an indictment, NBC reported Friday. Wilson is now on paid leave.

It’s unclear whether Wilson would want to return to the police force if he avoids an indictment, Chief Jackson said.

After Brown was killed on August 9, violence flared in periodic skirmishes between protestors and police, who deployed smoke bombs, tear gas and even armored tanks. The unrest sparked a national debate about racism and excessive police force.

[NBC News]

TIME Crime

Ferguson Braces for the Worst Ahead of Grand Jury Decision

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon talks during a press conference at the Missouri Highway Patrol Headquarters in Weldon Springs on Nov. 11th, 2014.
At a Nov. 11 press conference, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said the National Guard could again be deployed to deal with violence in Ferguson. Bryan Sutter—Demotix/Corbis

'You can literally see the fear in people’s eyes,' says one area gun shop owner

Here in Ferguson, you can measure the dread in sales figures. At the Original Reds BBQ on West Florissant Avenue, where the wafting aroma of rib tips and catfish fillet used to draw looping lines, the chairs stayed stacked on tables on a recent Friday at lunchtime. Boarded windows darkened the near-empty restaurant, which is now open only three days a week. “Why replace any of it if it’s just going to get broken again?” shrugs Al Bee, the 44-year-old head cook. “Business is bad, very bad.”

A few miles away, at the Metro Shooting Supplies gun shop in Bridgeton, the sense of threat has driven record sales, including more than 100 handguns and other weapons sold over a three-day stretch ending last Sunday. Shooting lessons are booked through 2015. “You can literally see the fear in people’s eyes,” says owner Steve King. “People are anticipating far worse than last time.”

Throughout the St. Louis area, citizens fear the riots that engulfed the city over the summer are about to return. A grand jury deliberating whether to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown is expected to come to a decision this month, perhaps as soon as late this week. And amid a steady drip of leaks that appear to corroborate Wilson‘s account of the encounter, protesters are readying for the possibility that the officer won’t be indicted on murder or manslaughter charges.

As a result, local law enforcement, politicians and protesters alike are bracing for the specter of another wave of unrest in a city that was filled with tear gas in the turbulent nights after Brown, an unarmed African-American 18-year-old, was shot to death on Canfield Drive by Wilson, a white police officer. The subsequent protests and law enforcement’s response to them stoked a national debate about race, representation and policing in America.

Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, announced Tuesday a chain of authority to maintain order in the wake of the grand jury announcement. “Violence will not be tolerated,” Nixon said. Police and government officials have met daily with each other and protest leaders to plan. More than 1,000 area law enforcement officers have received more than 5,000 hours of additional training. And once again, the Missouri National Guard will be at the ready if needed. “There’s a large sense of anxiety out there,” St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said.

St. Louis-area law enforcement agencies are replenishing and ramping up supplies of weapons and riot gear. “No one wants to use them, but it would be irresponsible if we didn’t prepare,” said Sgt. Brian Schellman, spokesperson for the St. Louis County Police Department. The county police have spent more than $100,000 since August on riot gear, tear gas, smoke bombs and so-called non-lethal ammunition such as rubber bullets and beanbag rounds.

School districts across the region have formally asked St. Louis officials to schedule the grand jury announcement during the weekend or after school hours to protect student safety. Administrators have also mailed letters outlining emergency procedures. “The students are definitely aware of the situation in the community,” says Emily Kuehl, a middle school teacher in Ferguson.

The sometimes violent demonstrations in August have continued to affect virtually every corner of the community. Religious groups and nonprofit organizations are dealing with sluggish charitable donations and fewer civic programs because of “fear of riots,” says Ferguson Public Library Director Scott Bonner. The library lost an educational program in which honor high-school students from affluent nearby communities would tutor Ferguson kids. Donations to food pantries have dwindled because “people don’t want to come into the area,” says Jason Bryant, 32, a father of two and a pastor who has lived in Ferguson for a decade. Bryant says he had to put his home renovation on hold because his contractors won’t show up to work. They say it’s “too dangerous.”

Shannon Kozeny, a 41-year-old single mom who lives in Kirkwood, an affluent suburb about 20 miles from Ferguson, says she recently bought a gun to protect her young daughter. “You don’t have to live in Ferguson to feel threatened,” she explains. “God forbid anything happens, I have a little girl to protect. If it comes down to life and death between my kid and somebody else, somebody who’s bigger than us, and angrier, I will stop it.”

Even peaceful protesters are bracing for violence. Last week, a coalition of 50 activist groups requested advance notice of the grand jury decision to quell the anger they say it may unleash.

On West Florissant Avenue, the shopping strip that was the center of the unrest in August, business owners say they fear for their lives as well as their livelihoods. “I’m scared,” says Rokhaya Biteye, 45, who owns a hair-braiding parlor on the Ferguson street. “I fear this time it will be more violent.”

Read next: Missouri Prepares for Ferguson Grand Jury Announcement

TIME

Missouri Prepares for Ferguson Grand Jury Announcement

Jay Nixon
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon follows the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the St. Louis Rams in the second half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. Colin E. Braley—AP

Bracing for grand jury decision on Michael Brown case

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced a plan Tuesday to maintain law and order on the day a grand jury announces whether it will indict the Ferguson cop who shot and killed an unarmed teenager.

“Violence will not be tolerated,” Nixon said in a news conference at Missouri Highway Patrol’s headquarters. More than 1,000 officers had over the past two months received specialized training in crowd control, he said, which placed an “emphasis” on the constitutional rights of demonstrators.

While Nixon insisted he would again call for back up from the National Guard if demonstrations grew unruly, he also struck a conciliatory note, saying that law enforcement had forged contacts with community churches, schools and businesses. He added that protest leaders would help officers identify demonstrators engaged in unlawful conduct and “arrest those individuals in order to protect public safety.” Still, St. Louis County police said have prepared for violent protests with around $100,000 of riot gear.

The grand jury is still deliberating the case. St. Louis prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch said on Monday that’s unlikely to reach a decision until mid- to late-November, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Read next: St. Louis Police Deny Ferguson No-Fly Zone Was to Keep Media Out

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