WASHINGTON, November 24, 2104 — St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced tonight that a Missouri grand jury — 12 citizens, three black and nine white — found no probable cause to file any charge against Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting and killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson.
Brown’s parents said in a statement, “We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions. While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.”
The fear in Ferguson is that the grand jury’s decision may spark another terrifying round of riots, looting, and wholesale local and national outrage.
The Brown shooting has grown to international prominence; Brown’s parents, Michael Brown, Sr. and Lesley McSpadden visited Geneva to plead for the United Nations to intervene and to understand that what they say really occurred and resulted in the death of their 19-year-old son.
From national and local leaders to Brown’s father, the call has been for police and citizens alike to be held accountable for a peaceful response, even as business owners in the area of the protests have boarded up their store windows, expecting the worst after the vandalism and looting following Brown’s death.
An announcement this afternoon had Brown’s father calling for a moment of silence — four and half minutes to represent the number of hours their son laid in the street following the shooting — before any protests begin.
That silence is to remind the protestors why they are there.
Protest organizers say they have been preparing for weeks for the protests, which they say are planned as peaceful expressions about the unfair way black men are treated by police across the country.
While the problems between black men and the police are real and result in needless tragedy, after reviewing nearly three months worth of testimony and evidence, the grand jury could not find that Wilson intended to murder Brown.
The biggest fears of violence stem not from the community that sees this as a chance to change Ferguson and the culture of police-versus-resident, but from the outrage and howls of outside, race-baiting agitators and national liberal activists who have been a consistent, noisy presence since Brown was shot on August 9.
Agitators like Al Sharpton are a concern to all. The MSNBC host with a history of agitation has said that he is “on high alert” for the grand jury decision.
Sharpton said that his civil rights group, the National Action Network, have been planning for “vigils and non-violent demonstrations” when the Ferguson grand jury hands down its ruling.
Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s senatorial election committee funded race-baiting advertisements prior to the 2014 midterm election for southern Democrats that included references to Brown’s shooting.
The goal of those ads was to scare blacks to the polls to vote against Republican Senate candidates. And it did not work.
Now with the grand jury decision over, the world will be watching to see what the citizens, the police and local officials will do to calm potential unrest and control outbreaks of violence.
Gov. Nixon announced that there would be thousands of city, county and state Highway Patrol officers ready to patrol as soon as the decision is announced. Nixon has activated the state’s National Guard, declaring a defensive state of emergency, a move that many felt was premature and that does more to incite racial division than smooth it.
So far local law enforcement public preparations against possible unrest and violence in Ferguson, including announcements of arming police and militia against citizens, only adds to the apprehension felt across the country.
Private citizens in the area are preparing to defend themselves against looters and mayhem as well; reports are that private gun sales have escalated recently in anticipation of the grand jury decision.
As the country looks on, a calm and peaceful response by the citizens and the police will result in change. Citizens need to show that they can promote their message of fairness while police need to demonstrate that they understand their role as a servant and protector, not a strong arm of law weaponized against the people.
Across this country police response is repeatedly characterized as aggressive, overpowering and harmful to the very people they are charged with protecting. Many saying that until police and leaders change their aggression, it will be hard for the people who live in fear, to change theirs.
To better understand the lives of our Black populace in America, watch CNN Soledad O’Brien’s Black in America: Black & Blue (trailer):
What you need to know about the grand jury:
Q: What is the role of the grand jury?
A: The grand jury considers the evidence of a chase to determine if a criminal charge should be filed by the District Attorney.
Q: How is the grand jury different from other juries?
A: The grand jury will determine only whether probable cause exists to indict a person, not whether a person is guilty or not. A separate court and trial jury will be seated to decide whether to convict or acquit him.
Q: When will the grand jury make a decision?
A: The Grand Jury reaches a decision when they want to. They do not have a time line or constraint.
Q: How many people are on the grand jury and how were they selected?
A: The grand jury is composed of 12 people “selected at random from a fair cross-section of the citizens,” according to Missouri law. The jury is 75 percent white: six white men, three white women, two black women and one black man. St. Louis County overall is 70 percent white, but about two-thirds of Ferguson’s residents are black.
Q: Is the grand jury appointed for a specific case?
A: No. It is appointed for a four-month term. The Grand Jury in Ferguson was sitting when they got the case, they were not appointed specifically for this case.
Q: How often do the grand jurors meet?
A: Their normal schedule has been to meet once a week.
Q: Who is inside the grand jury room?
A: The jury, a prosecutor and a witness. Grand jury proceedings are closed to the public.
Q: What happens when the grand jury convenes?
A: Prosecutors present evidence and summon witnesses to testify. A grand jury is a powerful tool for investigating crimes because witnesses must testify unless they invoke the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects against self-incrimination.
Typically, grand jurors hear a condensed version of the evidence that might be presented at a trial.