Tags: ferguson | grand | jury | protests

Missouri Grand Jury Site Braces for Protester Wrath If No Charge

Thursday, 20 Nov 2014 10:10 AM

A wealthy St. Louis suburb is bracing for protests after a grand jury there decides whether to indict a white police officer for killing an unarmed 18-year-old black man in nearby Ferguson.

Ferguson, a low-income suburb with a majority black population, was the site of violent protests and clashes with police following the death of Michael Brown. The suburb of Clayton, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) to the south has had relatively peaceful demonstrations with only a handful of arrests. That may change as soon as this weekend when the grand jury could hand down its decision.

While civil rights leaders have called for vigils at federal courthouses across the country, and St. Louis police sought 400 National Guard members to be in that city, police in Ferguson and Clayton agree that the site of the court complex where the grand jury sits will be the focus of protester wrath should no indictment be forthcoming.

Kevin Murphy, who has been police chief in the city of almost 16,000 residents since March, says his 48-member force -- 45 of whom are white -- is ready to deal with any unrest.

“Clayton has been the county seat for 100 years, and we have dealt with innumerable demonstrations over the years,” said Murphy, a 37-year veteran of the Clayton force. “We’re confident we can handle this.”

The grand jury of nine whites and three blacks, has been meeting for three months. There are seven men and five women on the panel. Clayton had been the scene of 18 demonstrations since Brown’s death with only a few arrests, Murphy said. The police chief wouldn’t discuss how his department was handling security for the grand jurors, nor if it has had special training in the wake of the Ferguson shooting.

Respect Rights

“We’re going to respect the demonstrators’ right to assemble and express themselves, and also protect property and protect people from violence,” Murphy said.

Clayton, in addition to being the center of county government and its justice system, is home to high-end condominium towers and residential areas. It has dozens of blocks of restaurants, shops and office towers.

It is 78 percent white, with a median household income of $88,432. The median value per housing unit was $615,000, according to the U.S. Census.

Ferguson is 67 percent black, with a median household income of $37,517. The median value per housing unit is $95,300.

Murphy’s department is responsible for law enforcement outside the county buildings; inside is the responsibility of the 840-officer St. Louis County Police Department.

Sgt. Brian Schellman of the County Police agreed Clayton would likely be the scene of demonstrations, along with downtown St. Louis.

He said the Clayton department would be in control.

“If things get ugly, they will ask for backup, and we will respond,” he said.

Both Murphy and Schellman said no changes in staffing were now being planned for this weekend, when an announcement on the decision may be made.

 

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A wealthy St. Louis suburb is bracing for protests after a grand jury there decides whether to indict a white police officer for killing an unarmed 18-year-old black man in nearby Ferguson.Ferguson, a low-income suburb with a majority black population, was the site of...
ferguson, grand, jury, protests
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2014-10-20
Thursday, 20 Nov 2014 10:10 AM
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