Police Nationwide Prepare For Protests After Ferguson Grand Jury Decision
It’s not just the police in Ferguson, Missouri, who are feeling the pressure to prepare for civil unrest when the St. Louis County grand jury reaches a decision about police officer Darren Wilson, who has been charged with a crime for killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown on August 9.
Police nationwide are preparing for protests and civil unrest when the decision is made, from Boston all the way over to Los Angeles, the latter of which has most certainly had experience handling racially-fueled riots after police officers seen on videotape beating Rodney King were acquitted back in 1992.
Recordings of police radio dispatches were released this week documenting Officer Wilson’s activities prior to shooting Brown.
Ferguson was rocked by race riots earlier this year, after Wilson shot and killed Brown after stopping him and a friend as they were walking in the middle of the street. Eyewitness accounts tell differing tales of the events that followed, with some believing Brown was surrendering when Wilson brutally executed him, while others corroborate Officer Wilson’s explanation that Brown attacked him, reached for his gun, and was shot dead when Brown aggressively charged at Wilson. Protestors took to the streets with signs that read, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” which quickly turned violent after protestors began looting nearby stores and hurling Molotov cocktails at police officers, and likewise Ferguson police officers responded with aggressive and militant tactics.
Ferguson, a predominately African-American town, is served by a police department that is overwhelmingly Caucasian, which has been the fuel behind the violent protests.
Since the shooting, the debate that began on the streets of Ferguson quickly spread online, igniting fears that the grand jury decision may spark violent protests in communities outside of Missouri. While most of the protesting that has occurred has been peaceful, there have been threats of violence if Officer Wilson is found innocent, primarily against police officers and supporters of Officer Wilson. Police in Boston are already preparing for protests, Boston Police Department spokesman Lt. Michael McCarthy told CBS News.
“It’s definitely on our radar. Common sense tells you the timeline is getting close. We’re just trying to prepare in case something does step off, so we are ready to go with it.”
Los Angeles police have been in contact with various departments in Missouri, where Governor Jay Nixon and St. Louis-area law enforcement held a news conference this week discussing their own preparations.
The family of Michael Brown is urging both protestors and police officers to remain calm, according to the family’s attorneys, Benjamin Crump and Anthony Gray.
“The family reiterates (Nixon’s) denouncement of violence, looting and rioting in the name of Michael Brown. Such acts cannot be tolerated. Regardless of the decision of the grand jury, this will be a defining moment in the history of the state of Missouri.”
Las Vegas police joined pastors and community leaders this week in a call for restraint during a rally that is expected to take place near the casino strip after the decision is announced. In Berkeley, Missouri, which neighbors Ferguson, city officials passed out fliers asking residents to prepare for violent protests as they would a major storm, by packing plenty of food, water, and medicine.
Back in Boston, McCarthy reassured the city that its 2,200 sworn police officers have dealt with public actions of this scale in the past, including alcohol-fueled sports fans spilling out onto city streets after championship victories for the Red Sox, Celtics, and Patriots, as well as protest movements like Occupy.
“We’ve had a lot of practice. The good thing is that our relationships here with the community are much better than they are around the world. People look to us as a model. Boston is not Ferguson.”
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