November 17, 2014 - ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, UNITED STATES - The governor of Missouri declared a state of emergency on Monday, authorising the national guard to assist the policing of protests expected in Ferguson after it is announced whether a white police officer who shot dead an unarmed black 18-year-old will face charges.
Jay Nixon signed an executive order on Monday activating the national guard to support police “during any period of unrest that might occur following the grand jury’s decision concerning the investigation into the death of Michael Brown”.
Nixon had previously said he was ready to order national guard troops back into the St Louis suburb whenever necessary. In August, the national guard protected a makeshift police base at a shopping mall during nights of clashes between officers and protesters following Brown’s death in a residential side-street.
The governor said in a statement on Monday that the soldiers would help “maintain peace and protect those exercising their right to free speech” in the event of demonstrations following the grand jury’s announcement, which is expected in the coming days.
“The national guard is well suited to provide security at command posts, fire stations and other locations as well as perform other functions that will free up law enforcement officers to remain focused on community policing and protecting constitutional rights,” he said.
National guard troops in Ferguson would again be commanded by brigadier general Gregory Mason, a veteran of the Missouri state highway patrol, which will police potential unrest alongside the St Louis metropolitan police and St Louis county police.
Statements welcoming the national guard from chiefs of those forces, which represent a unified police command, were attached to the statement from Nixon, a Democrat who before the crisis in Ferguson was viewed as a possible vice-presidential candidate for 2016.
The grand jury has been meeting for about three months to consider evidence on the shooting of Brown by officer Darren Wilson on 9 August. The officer shot Brown repeatedly after an altercation that followed Wilson stopping him and a friend for jaywalking.
Several witnesses said afterwards that Brown was shot after surrendering. Police say that he assaulted Wilson. The officer has reportedly testified to the grand jury that after fleeing, Brown turned and again posed him a physical threat.
A series of leaks from federal and regional officials has led to a widespread assumption among protesters that Wilson, 28, will not be indicted for the shooting. A series of actions is planned in response around the St Louis region and the US.
Protest organizers planned to demonstrate at the Ferguson Police Department when the grand jury's decision comes back, and later at the county courthouse in Clayton.
Ferguson Mayor James Knowles expressed confidence on Monday in the city's police department and its chief, Thomas Jackson.
"Right now, what we need is continuity in the police department and the chief has made tremendous relationships with a number of protesters and so I think that's what those protesters want," Knowles said. "The conversations we have been able to have with people have been very productive. ... We need to have a mutual understanding before we can move forward."
Local and state police are gearing up for potential unrest in the area following the grand jury’s decision in the Michael Brown case, and now sources tell KMOX there are federal agents in town, too.
The owner of an area tactical equipment company says he was paid a visit by an agent from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security earlier this week who was looking to buy cold-weather gear, including hats, gloves and holsters, for duty here in St. Louis.
He says the agent told him there were about 80 others in the area.
“I think that’s absolutely their mission is to protect the federal buildings and courthouses downtown,” the owner says of the Department of Homeland Security.
But St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson denies that there are federal agents in the area.
“This is a local law enforcement issue. So, you will not see any federal authorities, you will not see anybody on the ground,” Dotson says.
A representative from the Homeland Security office in Jefferson City, Missouri, sent KMOX an email saying, “the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has no role in the Ferguson Security Plan.”
While the grand jurors have considered material compiled by county investigators, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and US department of justice have been conducting a parallel inquiry for possible federal civil rights charges against Wilson. These, too, are considered unlikely. - The Guardian | Yahoo | CBS St. Louis.