Ferguson awaits grand jury ruling in Michael Brown shooting

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It’s the kind of anxiety you feel when a Category 5 Hurricane is hurtling your way.

You can’t gauge with certainty what will fall in its path, what will remain in its aftermath. You board up. And wait.

That’s the way much of Ferguson feels as it waits for the St. Louis County grand jury to decide whether Officer Darren Wilson should stand trial in the shooting of Michael Brown. The grand jurors technically have until January, but the prosecutor’s office has said a decision could come in mid-November.

It’s mid-November.

Lawyers, analysts and journalists have been speculating on when it will be announced. Residents of Ferguson, however, are done with all that for the most part. It has been a long calm before the impending storm.

“We just want them to get it over with” is a common refrain.

They saw street demonstrations erupt after Brown’s killing. They saw how violent things became. They watched heavily armed police come face to face with angry protesters demanding justice.

So did the rest of the nation, and the world.

Ferguson became a flashpoint for racial tension.

Some predict that will be the case again when the grand jury’s decision is announced. Will the white police officer face any charges in the death of a black, unarmed 18-year-old?

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency Monday as a precaution in the event of unrest or violence.

Along West Florissant Avenue, the ground zero of violent protests, businesses put back the plywood boards they had taken down from their windows and doors. Business owners were tired of answering questions about how they had fared through the weeks and weeks of tension.

“How do you think we are doing?” asked Dan McMullen, owner of Solo Insurance Services on West Florissant.

“I just want to get this over with and move on,” he said, sitting at his desk behind the boarded-up entrance to his strip mall office.

He said some protesters came in wanting to leave flyers with information in his office.

“I told them to get the hell out. You broke my windows and now you want me to put out your literature?”

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles told local media this month that he expected demonstrations across the region and warned authorities to “prepare for the worst.”

Area school superintendents wrote a letter to city officials and authorities requesting that they announce the grand jury’s decision on an evening or week night so it doesn’t affect about 20,000 students traveling back and forth to schools.

Many parents received notice to fetch their children from school if the decision comes out earlier in the day.

A group of community members calling themselves the Don’t Shoot Coalition has asked for 48 hours’ notice before the ruling is made public. It also released 19 “Rules of Engagement” that touch on major points of contention between protesters and police.

The group wants assurances that neither police nor the government will interfere with the flow of information, as well as a guarantee that police won’t use rubber bullets, armored vehicles, rifles or tear gas. The group also requested that officers wear attire “minimally required for their safety” and that “specialized riot gear be avoided except as a last resort.”

In the St. Louis area, protesters have been staging dry runs on how to face police. And continuing their demonstrations.

Despite below-freezing temperatures Monday, about 100 activists disrupted lunchtime traffic in the nearby city of Clayton.

Brown’s shooting on August 9 also touched a national nerve, with protests decrying racism and police brutality taking place around the country since his death.

The Ferguson National Response Network expects that reaction to the grand jury ruling will not be limited to the St. Louis area. It has set up a Tumblr account advertising about 70 “planned responses” to the ruling. They will take place from West Palm Beach, Florida, to New York to Chicago to Los Angeles.

Brown’s supporters have turned out in force, but Wilson’s supporters have demonstrated on occasion as well. They point to witness testimony and leaked grand jury documents that suggest Brown may have attacked Wilson, struggled for his gun and perhaps even charged the officer after the tussle over the weapon.

McMullen, the insurance company owner on West Florissant, said that protesters have made this into a racial issue but have ignored the facts of the case.

“There is no way a police officer in America would just get out of his car and shoot someone for no reason,” he said.

Protesters are aware of the other version of events, but it doesn’t stem their anger.

Many told CNN in August that other witnesses allege Wilson shot Brown at least six times as he stood about 30 feet from Wilson’s police cruiser. The fatal shots were fired as Brown had his hands up in surrender, they believe.

Perhaps stoking the most anger is that all six shots hit Brown above the waist, leading community members to believe Wilson never had any intention of arresting the 18-year-old.

Images of Brown’s body lying on the street went viral through social media.

Where he once lay is a makeshift memorial — half on the sidewalk and half on Canfield Drive, in the middle of the road, exactly where Brown fell.

Snow blanketed the hundreds of stuffed animals and plastic flowers as kids bundled up in jackets and scarves made their way home from school Monday afternoon. A lone videographer rolled his camera in front of the QuikTrip gas station that was looted and burned on the first night of violent protests.

Everyone was keenly aware that something like that could happen again. At any moment.

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6 comments

  • Friday

    If ferguson residents want to destroy their own neighborhood if the verdict doesn’t appease them, let them. There are sensible ways to go about doing things. Destroying your own neighborhood that you have to live in isn’t one of them.

  • Stupidisasstupiddoes

    This is the most ridiculous situation. If this were a black cop (that was scared out of his mind because this thug tried to grab his gun) and did the same thing it would be page 10 for about a day. Just like all of the black kids, white and black cops and whites getting shot everyday by the gang-bangers. But one white cop kills a black guy that just robbed a store and assaulted the shop owner and it’s a national outrage? How about these folks in the street go to work to make their communities a better place…instead of ripping them a part for the attention.
    All prompted by the media and the attention the black activists get by the media. It’s a circus without a ringmaster.
    Without the Police risking their lives, these communities would be nothing but burning piles of looted trash.
    If the verdict comes out, I wouldn’t risk a single life of the National Guard or Police. Let them take to the streets and burn their own city down. Then, all of the media can film it and the activists can get their 15 minutes of fame and we can move on.

  • Atavaniel

    Here’s the thing I haven’t seen reported anywhere in the major news media, it’s the thousands of photos showing Ferguson police using illegal tear gas on protesters, police removing or hiding their name tags( also illegal). They don’t show the accounts of the journalists who were arrested for trying to report the situation as it happened.
    The destroyed businesses? A McDonalds that was a place where protesters ran to to get milk and water to was the tear gas out. Maybe there’s also a reason that black businesses aren’t boarding up.
    There’s a definite media spin on things, read carefully and notice what words they use to describe who, they’re not exactly neutral.
    You can head up to twitter to see how things are unfolding in pictures that for some reason aren’t being shown by the media.

    • Handsdowngotowork

      You certainly have the right to peacefully protest, it’s one of the great things many men and women have died for to provide to you. But you are no longer constitutionally protected when a protest turns into civil unrest and police officers, innocent bystanders and property are attacked. When a police officer warns you to leave the area and they are met with bricks and bottles being thrown at them they are justified in the use of tear gas and rubber bullets. There is nothing illegal about it. If you attack a police officer you will be met with force. If a member of the media refuses to leave the restricted area they too are no longer constitutionally protected and subject to arrest. As for covering their name tags, post the law that requires a police officer to wear one. I’ll save you the trouble, there isn’t one. This is the greatest country in the world. Anyone that feels otherwise is free to buy a one way ticket out of here. Try acting like this in a third world country and see how the police treat you.

      • Stupidisasstupiddoes

        There you are….nicely put. But peaceful is not the way it will go…and it will always be on the news and the Police and National Guard will be shown in a bad light. Unfortunate…but true…it sucks. Again let the “community activists’ control the crowds…have them organize the “peaceful protests” and then take full responsibility when their ‘crowd’ breaks bad. The “activists” talk a good game, but will only set this up in a positive light if the policeman gets toasted. If he’s exonerated, all hell will break loose.