National Guard activated in Mo. as grand jury decision awaited
FERGUSON, Mo. — With tensions running high, Gov. Jay Nixon on Monday issued an executive order activating the National Guard “to support law enforcement during any period of unrest” that might occur after a grand jury’s decision in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer in Ferguson in August.
Nixon had said last week that he would issue the order; a grand jury decision is expected at any time.
In the days that followed officer Darren Wilson’s fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, protesters and police clashed in the streets of the St. Louis suburb, reviving a national conversation about the treatment of African-Americans by law enforcement. Heavily armed police faced off with protesters for weeks. Stores were looted, hundreds were arrested, the start of school was delayed, and the city was left as a symbol of racial and class divisions in America.
“This is America. People have the right to express views and grievances, but they do not have the right to put fellow citizens and property at risk,” Nixon said last week. “Violence will not be tolerated.”
The grand jury convened Aug. 20 to decide whether to indict Wilson, 28, for the shooting death of Brown on Aug. 9.
“As part of our ongoing efforts to plan and be prepared for any contingency, it is necessary to have these resources in place in advance of any announcement of the grand jury’s decision,” Nixon said in a statement posted on his website Monday afternoon. “All people in the St. Louis region deserve to feel safe in their communities and to make their voices heard without fear of violence or intimidation.
“Public safety demands that we are fully prepared for any contingency, regardless of what the St. Louis County grand jury or the U.S. Department of Justice decides.”
Nixon said in the order that he directed the Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis County Police Department and St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to “operate as a Unified Command to protect civil rights” and put the St. Louis County Police Department in charge of security in Ferguson related to protest areas and demonstrations.
The order occurred hours after dozens of protesters demanded the indictment of Wilson, marching in the business district of Clayton, where the county government and prosecutor’s office are located.
The protest, taking place as wintry temperatures dipped into the low 20s, marked the second consecutive day of demonstrations as the region and country await a decision from the grand jury.
Protesters have spent weeks planning acts of civil disobedience to take place if Wilson is not indicted — an outcome that is widely expected.