Law enforcement in Ferguson, Mo., has not ruled out using specialized riot gear or crowd control equipment such as armored vehicles, rubber bullets and tear gas for the expected protests following the grand jury’s decision whether or not to indict police officer Darren Wilson.
Even though the majority of protests since Wilson, a white police officer, shot and killed an unarmed Black teenager, Michael Brown, on Aug. 9, have been peaceful, tensions remain high in the St. Louis area as the wait for the grand jury decision continues.
A coalition of more than 50 protesters proposed a list of 19 “rules of engagement” in an attempt to prevent the use of excessive force by police. They met or spoke with officials at least five times about the proposal, but there was no negotiation, according to The Guardian.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and police commanders have agreed with some of the terms listed, but not all.
The first rule proposed: “The first priority shall be preservation of human life,” was agreed to.
Slay said that they didn’t agree to all 19 because it would limit the officers’ ability to keep people and property safe.
The requests to have the police wear the minimal attire necessary and to refrain from using crowd control equipment were rejected.
“If protestors are not violent, police will not be aggressive,” Slay wrote. “But, if some protestors turn violent or threatening, police will respond to keep everyone safe–including bystanders, the peaceful protestors, and police officers themselves.”
The U.S. Department of Justice has been working with law enforcement and the Attorney General, Eric Holder, advised them to “avoid needless confrontation.”
Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., released a video message requesting that the protests in support of his late son remain peaceful.
The anxiety over the grand jury’s decision has both the protesters and law enforcement nervous about the outcome. Both sides have been undergoing training to keep the situation as peaceful as possible. Law enforcement has been directed to show restraint, while the protesters have been training to remain peaceful. Local businesses have boarded their windows and schools have made preparations to get students home safely.
“Our goal, our job, and our prayer, is that at the end of each day, everyone goes home safe– police, protestors, and people who are not involved,” Slay wrote. “That there is no widespread damage to people’s homes and businesses; and that we are in a position to begin to heal, to close the racial divide, and to make the changes needed to make St.Louis a more fair and just city for everyone.”