Missouri Grand Jury Decision Said to Not Come This Weekend

The Missouri grand jury deciding whether to charge a Ferguson police officer in the August killing of an unarmed black teenager remained silent as tensions in the St. Louis suburb were high.

The decision by the grand jury, composed of nine whites and three blacks, was widely expected yesterday with an announcement today as protesters readied to take to the streets regardless of the outcome.

A law enforcement official familiar with the deliberations, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, said a decision wouldn’t come this weekend and declined to speculate on the reason. The official said law enforcement doesn’t know what will happen this week.

Officer Darren Wilson, 28, shot at least six times and killed Michael Brown, 18, in a street encounter on Aug. 9, triggering days of sometimes violent protests, looting and a police response that was criticized as militaristic. The shooting rekindled a national dialogue on race and American law enforcement.

Some eyewitnesses said Brown was shot while raising his hands in surrender. Police said he attacked Wilson while the officer was in his patrol car.

National Vigils

The grand jury began hearing evidence Aug. 20 and, according to CNN and MSNBC, will reconvene Nov. 24. Ed Magee, a spokesman for St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch, didn’t respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

In a an interview broadcast today on ABC’s “This Week” program, President Barack Obama said he has called Missouri Governor Jay Nixon “to make sure that he has a plan to respond in a careful and appropriate kind of way to any potential violence, to be able to sort out the vast majority of peaceful protesters from the handful who are not.”

“We saw during the summer the possibility of even overwhelmingly peaceful crowds being overrun by a few thugs,” Obama said.

Cornell William Brooks, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the organization is calling on its members and the community to respond peacefully.

“We don’t want violent protests done in the name of a violent act,” Brooks said.

Other Cities

New York civil-rights activist Al Sharpton said his organization will hold vigils at federal courthouses in 25 U.S. cities, following the grand jury’s decision. Internet sites are listing details of other gatherings to occur after the announcement.

Demonstrators blocked streets in Ferguson Nov. 21 and three people were arrested and charged with unlawful assembly after refusing to leave roadways, according to a statement from law enforcement officials.

Rallies were held last month under the banner “Ferguson October,” and spread to the city of St. Louis, 8 miles (13 kilometers) to the southeast.

Ferguson is a municipality of about 21,000 people, 70 percent of whom are black. As of September, 50 of the city’s 53 police officers were white.

National Guard

Nixon, a Democrat, said on Nov. 11 that hundreds of local and state police had received special training to respond to possible civil unrest after the grand jury’s decision and that National Guard troops could be called in if violence overwhelms those first-responders.

On Nov. 17, Nixon declared a state of emergency, activating the National Guard and creating a “unified command” of police agencies in anticipation of unrest when the grand jury’s decision is made public.

“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,” Nixon said in a statement. “Public safety demands that we are fully prepared.”

A day later, the governor said protesters’ rights to demonstrate would be protected, and he announced the appointment of 16 people including clergymen, academics and social workers to a state commission assigned to “study the underlying issues” raised by events in Ferguson.

The federal government is examining the Ferguson police department, its training and operating procedures. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the investigation was prompted by conversations he had with residents who expressed a “deep mistrust” of the city’s police.

Obama, in the interview with ABC, also appealed for calm.

“This is a country that allows everybody to express their views, allows them to peacefully assemble to protest actions that they think are unjust,” Obama said.

“But using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to rule of law and contrary to who we are.”

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