The country is on edge this weekend awaiting the Ferguson grand jury decision, which will see Officer Darren Wilson — who fatally shot unarmed teen Michael Brown this summer — either indicted or acquitted. In the small St.Louis suburb, preparations are being made in the likely case that protests break out again following the verdict: hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on ammunition and riot gear for local police officers and now, the FBI is sending 100 agents to Ferguson as well.
This summer saw the small Missouri town become a scene of violent chaos, in some ways comparable to a war zone. Fueled by anger at what appeared to be yet another case of racially charged police brutality, angry demonstrations broke out, and brutal clashes with police officers ensued — not only in the St.Louis suburb, but across the nation. It's clear that the issue of racism and police violence struck a nerve not only for residents of Ferguson, but for Americans everywhere.
Now, protests are threatening to erupt again, as the town watches the grand jury with bated breath. If Wilson is acquitted — a likely outcome, if precedence is anything to go by — Ferguson residents will once again take to the streets. In fact, even if he's indicted, locals are still threatening to demonstrate, meaning the question is less if than when.
And officials are getting ready for that eventuality, hardcore. The St. Louis County Police Department has spent roughly $200,000 on special preparations, including a range of ammunition and riot gear. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency earlier this week, and has threatened to bring in the National Guard, should tensions flare up.
On top of that, on Friday, the FBI opened up an intelligence center in St.Louis especially to deal with the upcoming protests, ordering 100 agents to be stationed in the area, ABC News reports — and even more agents have been put on standby, ready to move in if more backup is needed. Already, they've proven their worth: on Friday, the FBI arrested two men suspected of buying explosives they were going to detonate during the post-verdict protests.
In spite of the growing unease, messages calling for calm are coming from all sides — just yesterday, Michael Brown's father pleaded for peace in a video produced by STL Forward; and both Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama have sent out special messages urging the public to be non-violent. Said Obama:
This is a country that allows everybody to express their views. Allows them to peacefully assemble, to protest actions that they think are unjust. But using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to rule of law and contrary to who we are.
Whether or not their calls will be heard — and all these precautions will prove themselves necessary — will be seen before long: the grand jury's decision could come as soon as today. Images: Getty Images (2)