Ferguson Continues Anxious Wait For Grand Jury Decision
TESS VIGELAND, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. Arun Rath is away. I'm Tess Vigeland. We begin this hour in St. Louis, where residents throughout the city and its suburbs are very much on edge. They're awaiting an announcement from a grand jury deciding whether to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the August 9 fatal shooting of Michael Brown. As St. Louis Public Radio's Tim Lloyd reports, whatever the grand jury decides, more protests are expected.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: This is about democracy. Let's fight.
TOM LLOYD: The line of cars gets longer and longer as protesters marched down the road last night in front of the Ferguson police station blocking traffic. Even before the decision is announced, protests are building. They've been held here nightly for months, and demonstrators plan to gather at this spot when the grand jury's decision is finally announced.
In a region with deep racial divides, many protesters argue that the only way to bring change in the wake of Brown's death is to peacefully make people uncomfortable. Rev. Jason Keith Coleman is at the front of this crowd.
JASON KEITH COLEMAN: Iâm uncomfortable every time get in my car and turn my car on and drive down the street. Iâm uncomfortable. Theyâve been uncomfortable for three months. Iâve been uncomfortable for 36 years. And black people have been uncomfortable for 400 some odd years in this country.
LLOYD: A handful of protesters have been arrested this week. Rev. Coleman says activists are angry and loud, but they're peaceful.
COLEMAN: We're out here with our feet and our voices. That is the only weapon we have in the weapon of love, and that's it. That's all we have.
LLOYD: St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay has asked the National Guard to deploy 400 troops to 45 locations throughout the city to help ward off any possible property damage. And out of concern for student safety, the Jennings School District, which includes areas close to where Brown was shot, has already canceled school for Monday and Tuesday.
ANTHONY GRAY: By and large, let's just face it, the city is really in a panic at this point.
LLOYD: That's Anthony Gray, an attorney for Michael Brown's family. Yesterday, he reiterated the family's call for peace.
GRAY: And they wanted me to make it crystal clear they do not advocate any violence, and looting, any rioting.
LLOYD: Attorney General Eric Holder is urging police departments across the country to avoid needless confrontations with any protesters.
(SOUNDBITE OF DRILL)
LLOYD: Around the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton where the grand jury has been meeting, plywood is being drilled into storefronts. The area is expected to be a hotspot for protests after the grand jury's decision is announced. It's a largely upscale business district about nine miles south of where protests first erupted in Ferguson. But it can feel worlds apart.
The Lifestyle Center, which specializes in things like Botox injections, liposuction and hair transplants, is being boarded up. Dr. Richard Moore says shutting down for a few days could cost him tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue, but he hasn't made that decision yet.
RICHARD MOORE: When all the things were happening up in Ferguson, you'd hear about it and you'd see it on the news. But you were somewhat detached from it because it was up there. And yeah, I've been up there for my kids' sports events in the past, but it seemed much more remote. And now it seems to be coming home much more.
LLOYD: And with rumors perhaps more common than facts this weekend, residents here continue to watch and wait. For NPR News, I'm Tim Lloyd in St. Louis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.