Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard Monday afternoon ahead of a grand jury decision on whether to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Citing the possibility of “expanded unrest,” the executive order grants Missouri Highway Patrol, St. Louis County police and St. Louis Metropolitan police the power “to operate as a Unified Command to protect civil rights and ensure public safety in the City of Ferguson and the St. Louis region.”
“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,” Mr. Nixon said in a press release. “These additional resources will support law enforcement’s efforts to maintain peace and protect those exercising their right to free speech. 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.”
The St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch has said that an announcement of the grand jury’s decision will be made later this month. The governor’s executive order is set to expire in 30 days.
Tensions have somewhat settled in Ferguson since Brown’s death more than 100 days ago, but many fear it’s the calm before the storm. Some prominent protest leaders have vowed there will be fierce backlash if Officer Wilson is not charged.
“Rioting and looting are the tools of those without a voice,” Rockit Ali, a Ferguson protest organizer, told Reuters during a peaceful protest on Sunday. “There is no revolution without violence.”
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Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal said police officers “at every level” have been training for multiple contingencies.
“We have multiple police jurisdictions that are trying to understand what they can and cannot do,” she told CBS News.
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said Officer Wilson will be cleared to return to work if he is not indicted. The Ferguson police department will then conduct its own investigation to decide if he can stay.