Tags: Ferguson in Crisis | Ferguson | Grand Jury | protesters

Protesters Strategize, Gun Sales Spike as Ferguson Decision Looms

By    |   Monday, 17 November 2014 11:42 AM

Demonstrators have remained in Ferguson, Missouri since August, when 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot, and the groups' organizers are planning their "rules of engagement" to protest a grand jury's decision on whether Darren Wilson, the white police officer who killed Brown, should be indicted.

The groups range from the traditional to new organizations, such as Hands Up United and Lost Voices, reports The New York Times, and they have remained in the St. Louis suburb to protest not just the shooting, but larger issues including police misconduct, militarization of local law enforcement agencies, and racial profiling, among other concerns.

The grand jury's decision is expected some time this week, and the main issue for many of the groups is figuring out how to keep the protests loud and forceful without them turning violent, like they did in the weeks after Brown was shot.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that we really don’t want violence,” said a Lost Voices organizer who uses the name Bud Cuzz. “We want to fix this. We still want to fight to make the laws change. We still want to raise awareness. But we don’t want the city to turn upside down.”

But despite their plans, there is already an undercurrent of violence brewing in anticipation of the grand jury's ruling. At least one of the groups has said on Twitter that it is offering a reward for Wilson's whereabouts and that it was "restocking on 7.62 & 9 mm ammo."

Gun sales are also spiking in Ferguson, where business owners are nervous while awaiting the decision and fearful that protests could grow even more violent than they were in August.

"I bring an extra gun now only because it has a bigger magazine," Dan McMullen, who owns an insurance company, told CNN last week. "So maybe I get trapped here or something and have to have a John Wayne shootout. That's the silly part about it: Is that going to happen? Not a chance. But I guess, could it? I'm the only white person here."

St. Louis County Police spokesman Brian Schellman told The Times his department is watching several groups and trying to separate rhetoric from "actual threats."

Around 50 groups have joined together to form the "Don't Shoot Coalition," and have been holding training meetings to plan strategy for the grand jury's decision.

They're telling demonstrators to keep several supplies ready, including gloves, maps, phone numbers, medical supplies, and are being told to write a "jail support number" on their arm in permanent marker in the event they are arrested and need to call for help.

In addition, safe havens are being opened in churches so protesters can get warm and stay away from police.

And in many cases, leaders plan to protest even if Wilson is charged, so they can show that the issues reach beyond the teen's shooting.

"We want to appear strong and forceful because we believe in what we're pursuing," said Derek Laney, an organizer for the group Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment. "But we also definitely want everyone to know we’re committed to nonviolence. We want to disrupt. We want to make the comfortable uncomfortable.”

But protest leaders admit that there is some chaos in the planning, because unlike in demonstrations of earlier years, there is no one leader behind the efforts.

“This is not your momma’s civil rights movement,” said Ashley Yates, who participates in Millennial Activists United. “This is a movement where you have several different voices, different people. The person in charge is really — the people. But the message from everyone is the same: Stop killing us.”

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Demonstrators have remained in Ferguson, Missouri since August, when 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot, and the groups' organizers are planning their "rules of engagement" for the grand jury's decision.
Ferguson, Grand Jury, protesters
Monday, 17 November 2014 11:42 AM
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