Missouri Governor Declares Preemptive State of Emergency for Ferguson
As community readies for no-indictment ruling, activists say, 'No indictment is a declaration of war, from the state, from the police, from the system itself.'
Update 3:15 PM (EST): Missouri Governor Issues State of Emergency Order in Ferguson Ahead of Indictment Decision
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon on Monday issued an Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency in Ferguson, Missouri.
"Regardless of the outcomes of federal and state criminal investigations, there is the possibility of expanded unrest," Nixon declares, citing the pending announcement over the indictment of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown.
The order, which lasts for thirty days, directs that the "St. Louis County Police Department shall have command and operational control over security in the City of Ferguson relating to areas of protests, acts of civil disobedience and conduct otherwise arising from such activities."
Further, it opens the doors for the U.S. National Guard to be called in at any time in order to "take such action and employ such equipment as may be necessary to carry out requests processed through the Missouri State Highway Patrol and ordered by the Governor of the state to protect life and property and support civilian authorities."
Organizers and community members have called for a peaceful response should the no-indictment ruling come. However, as observers note, this preemptive move by Nixon sets the stage for a strong police crackdown to any community response to the grand jury decision.
We have a State of Emergency yet nothing has actually happened. No riots, violence. All anticipatory. Justification for clampdown. #Ferguson
— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) November 17, 2014
As news of the order broke, reaction came swiftly on Twitter.
Earlier 11:30 AM (EST): In Ferguson, A Community Braces for 'System Failure'
Expressing little hope in the U.S. system of justice, the community of Ferguson is bracing for the fallout if Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson is not indicted for the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August of this year.
A video communique released on Sunday by local activists and organizers shows a community prepared for the worst, with boarded up shops, spray painted with signs that read: "Open for Business. Ferguson Proud. Pray for Peace and Progress." A grand jury is expected to hand down their decision any day.
"All these preparations are being made with the expectation that a system that's supposed to work for everyone is going to fail, once again, for black people in America," says one of the interviewees. Put forth by the local group HandsUpUnited.org, the video features exclusive interviews with a wide cross-section of community members, organizers and Ferguson residents, including Mayor James Knowles III.
Sunday marked 100 days since 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot at close range by Wilson and left dead in the street for over four hours, spurring months of widespread protests and outrage. The violent police response to the largely peaceful demonstrations further ignited the community's call for an overhaul of what they say is a deeply prejudiced system, as well as for justice for Michael Brown.
While activists are calling for a peaceful response, St. Louis police have indicated that they are preparing for a battle. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said last week that the Missouri National Guard was part of the state's "multiforce contingency plan" in order to "support local law enforcement" in the wake of the announcement.
On-the-ground organizers are accepting donations for goods, such as blankets and food, for community "sanctuary spaces" and are distributing protest information including "Rules of Engagement" should the no-indictment ruling come.
"Nobody's asking for Darren Wilson to be killed. Nobody's asking for him to be shot in the street. Nobody's asking for him to be strung up—like we have been for every decade in every century that we've been here," activist and actor Jesse Williams said in the comminque. "We're asking for him to be charged for the crime that he committed in front of witnesses."
The activists portrayed in the video say that the interesting thing about Ferguson is that it's "nothing unique. Cops kill black people." The difference is that "Ferguson decided they had enough."
"No indictment is a declaration of war," added artist and HandsUpUnited.org cofounder Tef Poe, "from the state, from the police, from the system itself issued to black and brown oppressed people, poor people of all creeds."
On Friday, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported new details of police audio recordings which showed that Brown had been killed only 61 seconds after Wilson had told the dispatcher he had stopped Brown and a friend. According to an attorney for Brown's family, the recording demonstrates that Brown's shooting "had nothing to do" with an earlier convenience store robbery, which Wilson and the Ferguson Police Department had alleged that Wilson was responding to.