By: Luke Gould
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, ahead of the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case, has activated the state national guard and declared a state of emergency. Nixon justified this decision, on the grounds of possible violence and unrest.
The executive order from the Governor’s office was signed Monday. It ensures National Guard support to local police “during any period of unrest that might occur following the grand jury’s decision concerning the investigation into the death of Michael Brown”. It is widely expected that Officer Darren Wilson will not be charged with the fatal shooting death of unarmed African American youth Michael Brown.
The same day the FBI issued a warning of possible violence in reaction to the coming grand jury verdict. “The FBI assesses those infiltrating and exploiting otherwise legitimate public demonstrations with the intent to incite and engage in violence could be armed with bladed weapons or firearms, equipped with tactical gear/gas masks, or bulletproof vests to mitigate law enforcement measures,” the warning concluded.
Nixon’s announcement and the FBI warning are further escalating tensions in greater St. Louis.
The National Guard will function in a backup role during possible violence. The Missouri State Highway Patrol will work with and coordinate local police statewide. The St. Louis County Police will have operational command over the suburb of Ferguson, where Michael Brown was shot down in August. Perhaps more anxiety inducing than Nixon’s announcement to utilize the National Guard or the FBI bulletin warning of violence is the decision to again use the St. Louis County Police in Ferguson. The St. Louis County Police in charge of Ferguson have been subject to intense criticism for their heavily militarized response to protests in the city during August. There is fear that the police will again be quick to take to the streets in armored vehicles, wielding assault rifles and tear gas canisters and clad in fatigues and gas masks. The heavy handed tactics witnessed in August could very easily make headlines again if police fail to utilize the proper response to unrest. The police, utilizing proper restraint, could very easily deescalate the coming violence. Acting wildly, unprofessionally and like an occupying force to control protestors, however, will result in a cycle of ever escalating violence.
The grand jury verdict is likely to come at the end of the week or over the weekend. The atmosphere in the St Louis area is tense as citizens brace for the coming chaos. Many local businesses are boarded up. The KKK has threatened violence against protestors, and officials have shown concern about individuals coming in from the outside to instigate violence. The local police’s ability to police effectively is being questioned by people who are understandably upset. There are those ready to confront law enforcement which has, in the opinion of many, brutalized and marginalized them for years. If justice cannot be achieved through the courts individuals are determined to look for it in the streets.
Photo Jeff Roberson/AP