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Residents In Ferguson, Mo., Ready For Grand Jury Decision


A grand jury is still considering whether to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last August. Brown's family and community leaders are asking that protests remain calm. Attorney General Eric Holder urged law enforcement officials to minimize the potential for confrontation with demonstrators. Residents of Ferguson - business owners, church leaders, community organizers - are also making preparations ahead of the grand jury decision. NPR's Cheryl Corley spent the day in Ferguson and joins me now. And, Cheryl, the mayor of St. Louis and other officials held a news conference today. What did they say?

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Well, they talked about the conduct that's going to come after the grand jury announcement comes. The protesters had proposed 19 rules of engagement. One, for example, called for no tear gas to be used. The mayor said, surprisingly perhaps to some, that over the past 100 days there has been lots of communication with these protest leaders, that police commanders have met with them for about five times to talk about conduct. And they agreed to a lot of the rules. And here is one that the mayor was - the mayor talked about one they agreed to.


MAYOR FRANCIS SLAY: They may be allowed to occupy public spaces longer than normally tolerated. That will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

CORLEY: The mayor also said, Robert, if protesters are nonviolent, the police won't be aggressive. But if they are violent, police will respond to keep people and property safe.

SIEGEL: Cheryl, the family of Michael Brown issued a public service announcement asking that any protests not turn violent. What are community leaders doing to prepare in the possible event of violence?

CORLEY: Well, there have been several groups working on this, particularly those associated with churches. They've been working to make sure people have safe places to go to. They've been collecting supplies like food and extra clothes and first aid supplies. There's also a few tiers of safe spaces that churches have set up. I talked to Reverend Susan Sneed. She is an organizer with the Metropolitan Congregations United. And she says there'll be three different sanctuary spaces. Those are big churches that are primarily set up for the protesters.

REVEREND SUSAN SNEED: It's a place they can go to rest, recharge cell phones, get food, get medical care if they need it.

CORLEY: And those churches will be open for about 24 hours. There are also going to be other churches primarily for anyone in the community. They can even stay overnight if they like. And some other churches that will be open only during regular business hours.

SIEGEL: And what's the sentiment of the business owners in and around Ferguson who say they've been losing revenue since the shooting of Michael Brown?

CORLEY: Well, you may recall, after the first few days some of the businesses in the area where the shooting occurred were either destroyed or looted. Many of those businesses are boarded up - some not going to reopen, some are struggling. At a press conference earlier today, a number of business owners talked about what they are doing. I talked to Dellena Jones. She is the owner of the 911 Hair Salon. She says she boarded it up right after the event in August and will continue to have her windows boarded up.

DELLENA JONES: We hate it. I don't like the boards being up there. But I think it's almost ludicrous not to take precautionary measures because your insurance is not going to pay for it.

CORLEY: And other business owners I talked to today said they're just going to pray, Robert.

SIEGEL: Cheryl, just to be clear here, a lot of the concern is that people will be upset with the action of the grand jury if there's no indictment. We have no idea what the grand jury is going to do - just to emphasize that.

CORLEY: That's correct.

SIEGEL: NPR's Cheryl Corley in St. Louis, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.

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