Cities brace for protests over Ferguson decision
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 18-year-old in Ferguson, Mo.
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 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, 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 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 upon 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 last week on preparations.
“We saw what happened when there were protests over there and how oftentimes protests spill from one part of the country to another,” said Cmdr. Andrew Smith, a police spokesman.
In Las Vegas, police joined pastors and community leaders 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 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 passed out fliers urging residents to prepare for unrest as they would a major storm — with plenty of food, water and medicine.
In Boston, a group called Black Lives Matter, which has chapters in other cities, is organizing a rally in front of the police district office.
In Albuquerque, N.M., police expect demonstrations, having dealt with a string of protests following a March police shooting of a homeless camper and more than 40 police shootings since 2010.
Police departments stressed they’re well-equipped. Many saw large but peaceful demonstrations over the 2013 not-guilty verdict in the slaying of Florida teen Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman.