The city of Ferguson, Missouri, is preparing for city-wide unrest if/when Ferguson police officer Daren Wilson is cleared of any wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.
A grand jury is expected to announce in the coming days if Wilson will be indicted on any charges for the shooting, and most people close to the situation are expecting a no-indictment verdict.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of protestors are planning to hit the streets of Ferguson following the verdict – regardless of what that verdict may be. Leaders from the numerous groups have convened in recent days to discuss rules of engagement the protestors should follow when interacting with the police. The rules, which are proposed for both protestors and police, can be seen here.
The leaders look to send a firm, unwavering message to the nation with their protests but hope violence is kept to a minimum.
“We’ve come to the conclusion that we really don’t want violence,” Lost Voices organizer Bud Cuzz told the New York Times. “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.”
Leaders acknowledge that there may be some in their ranks who are quick to turn a hostile environment into a violent one but are hoping for a peaceful protest nonetheless. That doesn't mean they don't hope to disrupt the community, though.
“We want to appear strong and forceful because we believe in what we’re pursuing,” organizer Derek Laney said. “But we also definitely want everyone to know we’re committed to nonviolence. We want to disrupt. We want to make the comfortable uncomfortable.”
The New York Times reports that President Obama met with several leaders in Ferguson and asked them to encourage protestors to remain peaceful over the coming days. Al Sharpton was among the leaders on hand.
According to Sharpton, Obama “was concerned about Ferguson staying on course in terms of pursuing what it was that he knew we were advocating. He said he hopes that we’re doing all we can to keep peace.”
Recent photos out of Ferguson show several shop owners in the area boarding up windows just in case things do take a chaotic turn. Jose Chavez, a leader of the local Latinos en Axion group, says many people in the community are expecting some level of violence.
“We are bracing for that possibility,” Chavez said. “That is what many people are expecting. The entire community is going to be upset [if Wilson isn’t indicted].”
Michael T. McPhearson, co-chairman of the Don’t Shoot Coalition, says these protests are just the beginning of what they hope becomes a nationwide movement.
“It must be changing how police and citizens relate to one another,” McPhearson told the Times. “We’re calling for police accountability, police transparency, changing how the police do their work. If there’s an indictment, or if there’s not an indictment, we still have that work to do.”