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Ferguson tense ahead of grand jury decision

A passing motorist cheers at protestors demonstrating along a stretch of road where violent protests occurred following the August shooting of unarmed black teenager by a white police officer, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.
Image Credit: AP Photo/David Goldman
November 23, 2014 - 12:57 PM

FERGUSON, Mo. - Crews erected barricades around the building where a grand jury has been considering whether to indict the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, even as a grand jury decision seemed unlikely this weekend.

Tension has been mounting in Ferguson and elsewhere in the St. Louis area, with many speculating that the grand jury's decision would be announced Sunday. That seemed increasingly unlikely, although there was a noticeable uptick in preparations.

At Shalom Church in nearby Florissant, the Rev. Freddy Clark alluded to the pending grand jury decision Sunday morning, telling the mostly black, interdenominational congregation that "justice will be served" whichever way the decision goes because God will take care of it.

"None of us are pleased about what happened," said parishioner James Tatum. "Whatever the verdict is, we have to understand that's the verdict."

Downtown STL Inc., a St. Louis civic group that promotes downtown businesses, told members in an email Saturday that the grand jury will reconvene Monday to continue deliberating whether charges are warranted against Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of Brown.

The email did not explain how the group knew the information, and a spokeswoman declined comment. Ed Magee, a spokesman for St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, didn't respond to several messages Saturday.

The Brown family's attorney, Ben Crump, said Saturday that he hadn't heard a decision had been reached and that prosecutors had promised to tell him when that happened.

Wilson is white and Brown, who was unarmed, was black. There have been many demonstrations in the months since Brown's death, including some that were violent. On Saturday, authorities set up barricades around the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, where the grand jury has been meeting.

Barricades also went up in the shopping center parking lot on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson where police set up a makeshift command center immediately after Brown's death.

Several dozen protesters marched in Ferguson on Saturday evening, praying, playing music and chanting slogans including, "No justice, no peace" and "Mike Brown means, we've got to fight back." Cars stopped and drivers honked, slowing traffic.

Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, spoke to protesters through a bullhorn and urged people to be careful.

"Don't agitate them, and don't let them agitate y'all," she said. "I don't want nobody getting hurt. We're all willing to do something, but I don't want nobody getting hurt."

Later, several protesters gathered outside of Ferguson's police station, where they blocked South Florissant Avenue. Officers warned the crowd not to impede traffic, and the demonstrators moved to the sidewalk before eventually spilling back into the street. Two people were arrested for unlawful assembly, said St. Louis County Police spokesman Brian Schellman.

Several businesses in Ferguson and Clayton have boarded up their windows, and some residents admitted to feeling anxious.

Jamie Freeman of Ferguson, 38, a registered nurse and mother of four, said she was especially concerned since her 20-year-old son lives in the neighborhood where Brown was shot.

"I just hope it stays peaceful," Freeman said of protests that will follow the grand jury decision. "We all have human emotions, but there's a way to do things, and violence, you can't get peace from violence."

The FBI has sent nearly 100 additional agents to Ferguson to help law enforcement agencies, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the FBI plans.

— Salter reported from St. Louis. Associated Press writers Andale Gross in Florissant and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.

News from © The Associated Press, 2014
The Associated Press

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