Anxious Ferguson waits for grand jury's decision
Updated: 2014-11-24 09:33
Barricades and police tape surround a government building near the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, Missouri November 23, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]
FERGUSON - After a fourth straight night of low-level protests in Ferguson, Missouri, anxious residents still did not know on Sunday when a grand jury would return a decision on whether to charge a white policeman who shot an unarmed black teen to death this summer.
It appeared that the St. Louis suburb, which has become a flashpoint for US race relations since Officer Darren Wilson killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug 9, would have to wait until at least Monday and perhaps longer for an announcement.
The 12-member grand jury adjourned and was to resume meeting behind closed doors on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing an unidentified St. Louis County official.
Preaching at the Greater St Mark Family Church, the Rev. Tommie Pierson urged the congregation to pull together as a community. "The power to get what you need is already in our hands," he said. "You live in a democracy; you must participate."
Looking heavenward, Pierson said: "You alone know what the grand jury will do. You alone know what the marchers and demonstrators will do. We ask, oh God, for your protection."
Media reports had suggested the 12-member grand jury panel would have a decision by this weekend. There have been nightly rallies and a high-profile law enforcement presence.
A lawyer for Michael Brown's family criticized how prosecutors have handled the grand jury process, which has dragged on longer than many expected.
The attorney, Benjamin Crump, told ABC's "This Week" program on Sunday it was the first time in his 20 years as an attorney that a prosecutor had not recommended charges to a grand jury hearing a case.
"Why you can't come in and recommend charges right now based on the probable cause?" Crump said, a reference to witnesses who said Brown had his hands up in the air, signaling surrender, when the officer shot him. Wilson's supporters say he shot Brown in self-defense.
St. Louis County prosecutors have said the grand jury's decision will be announced at a news conference, but the date, time and location remain unknown. Crump said he expected to get about six hours notice before an announcement.
In anticipation of the announcement, barriers were erected over the weekend around the courthouse where the jury meets, and traffic restrictions were imposed on some nearby roads. The streets were largely empty of people on Sunday during torrential rain.
Two people were arrested outside Ferguson police headquarters late Saturday - an activist from Chicago who has been detained during protests three times since Wednesday and a man identified as a Washington, D.C. based-reporter.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency and called in National Guard troops to back up police, which protesters have criticized as heavy-handed.
Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, told demonstrators on Saturday night they should remain peaceful whatever the grand jury decides.