Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon this afternoon declared a state of emergency in the entire state of Missouri because of “the possibility of expanded unrest” when the grand jury decision is released on the case of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson—an almost sure sign that the grand jury in St. Louis County likely has voted not to indict Wilson for killing 18-year-old Michael Brown.
The state of emergency is just the latest signal that Missouri officials are afraid the Black community in St. Louis will explode in anger when they reveal that Wilson will walk free after killing the unarmed teen in a case that has captivated the nation and angered many. For the past week, schools and businesses in the area have been preparing for the grand jury decision, which is expected to be revealed very soon.
In his executive order, the governor cited the ongoing federal investigation into the case, in addition to the grand jury proceedings, as matters whose resolutions could come soon.
“Regardless of the outcomes of the federal and state criminal investigations, there is the possibility of expanded unrest and…the State of Missouri will be prepared to appropriately respond to any reaction to these announcements; and…our citizens have the right to peacefully assemble and protest and the State of Missouri is committed to protecting those rights; and…our citizens and businesses must be protected from violence and damage,” the announcement said.
The order grants the Missouri Highway Patrol, the St. Louis County Police Department and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department the power “to operate as a Unified Command to protect civil rights and ensure public safety” throughout the St. Louis region. But it was the specter of this militaristic “unified command” that shocked the nation in August when mostly peaceful protesters were treated like felons by a police force armed with armored tanks and large-scale weaponry.
Many observers felt the over-reaction of the police force greatly exacerbated the anger and hostility in the area.