Missouri’s governor is open to calling in the National Guard if the reaction to a grand-jury decision—expected as soon as this month—turns violent.
“The National Guard has been and will continue to be part of our contingency planning," Gov Jay Nixon said Tuesday.
The grand jury is deliberating whether to press charges against police officer Darren Wilson, who shot teenage Michael Brown on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo.
Nixon added that officers from the Missouri Highway Patrol, the St. Louis County Police and the St. Louis City Police "will operate as a unified command to protect the public" in the days following the announcement.
Lack of coordination and communication between the disparate municipalities that make up the St. Louis region have been the focus of considerable controversy in the wake of Brown's death, and the governor's comments appeared to aim at bridging those gaps during what is considered a crucial moment for the state.
Since Brown's death, the St. Louis region has seen continuous protests and demonstrations that have sharply divided the community. Protesters have called for the indictment of Wilson, along with other changes to what they allege is a systemically racist relationship between blacks and police in the region.
Fears that reaction to the grand jury's decision will turn violent have led to multiple churches planning day-long vigils and offering to open their doors as shelters in the days after the decision. Local residents have been quoted as saying that they are "getting prepared for war" if Wilson is not indicted.
"We know this decision will be a crisis point for our region," Christ Church Cathedral dean Mike Kinman told the Riverfront Times. "Even the anticipation of it has put St. Louis in a place of fear, anxiety and high reactivity."
On Monday, officials told local media that the grand jury is still working on the case and will likely reach its decision by mid-November. The decision could come as late as January.
Nixon said that law enforcement's preparations for a worst case scenario is not because officials are expecting violence, "but because we have the responsibility to prepare for any contingency."
Any acts of violence, Nixon said, "will not be tolerated."
Since the announcement, local protesters have taken to Twitter with their reactions.
— Oafus Laureate (@NewsToYouToday) November 11, 2014
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.