Missouri governor vows to stop any violence after Ferguson decision

By Kenny Bahr
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declares a state of emergency and curfew in response to looting the previous night in Ferguson, Missouri August 16, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Kenny Bahr

WELDON SPRINGS Mo. (Reuters) - Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said on Tuesday the National Guard would be on standby to respond to any violence after a grand jury decides whether or not to indict a white police officer for shooting dead an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson.

In addition to the National Guard, police officers from across the state could be called on to restore order if protests get out of hand, Nixon told a news conference.

A decision by the grand jury is expected in mid-to-late November.

The August shooting of Michael Brown, 18, by Darren Wilson sparked a national debate on race relations and led to weeks of street demonstrations. Some groups have threatened extensive protests if the officer is not charged with a crime.

"That ugliness was not representative of Missouri and it cannot be repeated," Nixon said.

"These measures are not being taken because we are convinced that violence will occur, but because we have a responsibility to prepare for any contingency," he said.

Nixon said 1,000 police officers had undergone more than 5,000 hours of specialized training ahead of the grand jury decision.

Some businesses in Ferguson have boarded up windows and made plans for protecting themselves and their property if protests ignite into violence.

State and local police, who were decked out in riot gear and fired rubber bullets into crowds during demonstrations after the shooting, have come under criticism for what many saw as a heavy-handed response that made a volatile situation worse.

Police have said they came under attack by some protesters who wielded weapons and gasoline bombs.

The American Civil Liberties Union and National Lawyers Guild said they plan to deploy observers to the scene after the grand jury decision to make sure police are not violating civil liberties.

The Ferguson-Florissant School District, which had to delay the start of the school year due to protests in August, has reviewed contingency plans in case there are serious protests and schools have to dismiss students early for safety reasons.

Rumors of an impending decision on the indictment have flooded social media for days, prompting St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch on Monday to reiterate his expectation that the grand jury would not make a decision until mid-to-late November.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Missouri, Jason McClure in St. Louis, Fiona Ortiz in Chicago and David Bailey in Minneapolis; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Trott and Eric Beech)