Ferguson On Edge

Protest Outside Ferguson Police Department

Protesters were arrested last night. And a court decision could drop tomorrow:

The grand jury hearing evidence on the Michael Brown shooting is preparing to meet Friday for what might be its final session, and a decision on whether to charge Officer Darren Wilson could come the same day, law enforcement officials briefed on the plans said.

On Monday, Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard. Jamelle Bouie disapproves of such actions:

[W]hile many Ferguson residents were disturbed by the damage done during the earliest protests, there’s anger over the choice to declare a state of emergency, and rightfully so.

Remember, the initial Ferguson protests—which began the afternoon Brown was killed—weren’t violent. Instead, at first dozens, then hundreds of people gathered to peacefully protest the shooting and demand answers for why Brown’s body was allowed to lie in the sun for four hours before police took action. If there was unrest that day, it was less because of the protesters and more because of police.

As soon as residents met to protest Brown’s death that day, police brought scores of reinforcements. The Ferguson Police Department called in more than 100 officers from other jurisdictions, with some officers wielding dogs and shotguns. Given the circumstances—an angry community that wanted answers over the death of a teenager—it was an overreaction that engendered mistrust and worsened the situation.

Amy Davidson argues along the same lines:

The grand jury may surprise those who expect it to let Officer Wilson walk away. Those who are watching the people of Ferguson with such worry now may be asked to comprehend them in ways they haven’t before. It is treated as somehow exceptional that there were no riots after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, in Florida. But what is often forgotten there is that what Martin’s parents asked for, first and foremost, was simply a trial of some kind, a chance for their son’s story to be heard in open court—at first, it looked as if it never would be. They got that, if not the full measure of accountability they hoped for. The fearfulness of the authorities in Missouri has been seen as an insult to the black community and a preëmptive strike against perfectly legal peaceful protests. Both of those elements are there, and both, counterproductively, increase tensions and reduce trust.

Paul Cassell hopes for transparency from the grand jury:

Several weeks ago, Bob McCulloch (the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney supervising the grand jury) issued a little-discussed news release, promising that if the grand jury decides not to charge, he will then seek to have the grand jury’s information made publicly available: “If the grand jury does not return an indictment, then I will ask the court to order that the evidence be released to the public as soon as possible if not immediately.”  (McCulloch has also pointed out that if the grand jury makes a decision to return charges, no such motion will be required because the facts will naturally emerge during the criminal trial.)

… It is hard to imagine a court turning down McCulloch’s request to release the grand jury information.  This will make the Michael Brown shooting investigation far more “transparent” than just about any other high-profile criminal investigation.

(Photo: A protestor in a Guy Fawkes mask, raises his hands in front of a line of police outside the Ferguson Police Department as part of continued demonstrations in regards to the shooting death of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri on November 19, 2014. By Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)