Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and St. Louis area leaders have told the public that law enforcement will let protesters’ voices be heard while ensuring safety after a grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case is announced.
The St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office says the grand jury’s decision whether Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will be charged with a crime will be announced at 8 tonight.
Nixon addressed the media in St. Louis joined by St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, and Public Safety Director Dan Isom.
Nixon, after being criticized by some protest groups who said he was speaking too much last week to protesters and not enough to law enforcement about remaining peaceful, offered a broad message.
“Our shared hope and expectation is that regardless of the decision, people on all sides show tolerance, mutual respect and restraint,” Nixon said.
“Earlier today I visited with some folks in Ferguson. It’s understandable that like the rest of us they are on edge waiting for a decision, but they are doing their best to go about their daily lives, conduct their business and support one another and their community,” Nixon said.
Dooley wants the public to be protected.
“I do not want people in this community to think they have to barricade their doors and take up arms,” Dooley said. “We are not that kind of a community.”
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay says he expects to see the best police officers in the country protecting protesters’ rights and keeping people safe.
“After that it will time to heal. To close the racial divide and make St. Louis a better place for everyone regardless of race or color,” Slay said.
All three elected leaders stressed that they do not know what the grand jury decision to be announced tonight will be.
Isom said the unified command of the St. Louis County Police, St. Louis Metropolitan Police and the Highway Patrol have worked for two months on a plan for tonight.
“I have great confidence in the design of this plan,” Isom said. “It has prioritized keeping all people safe – residents and protesters – the protection of property, and ensuring that people can exercise their constitutional rights.”
Isom sought to offer encouragement to both police and the public.
“I also have tremendous confidence in the men and women in St. Louis law enforcement. They understand the importance of protecting everyone and I know they intend to do so,” Isom said. “I also have great confidence in the people of my community. A tremendous dialogue has begun to take place here about more than just policing. This community understands that through peaceful protests and through dialogue we will continue to grow, and that violence will set this process back.”
AUDIO: Listen to the whole media conference, 15:41