NPR logo

Plan For Grand Jury Verdict Lacked Follow-Through, Critics Say

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/366729925/366729926" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Plan For Grand Jury Verdict Lacked Follow-Through, Critics Say

Around the Nation

Plan For Grand Jury Verdict Lacked Follow-Through, Critics Say

Plan For Grand Jury Verdict Lacked Follow-Through, Critics Say

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/366729925/366729926" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon called in more member of the National Guard on Tuesday, after some protests in Ferguson turned violent Monday. A plan for after the verdict had been in the works for months.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Hundreds more Missouri National Guard troops were patrolling the streets of Ferguson last night. It helped. Protests continued but with much less violence than on Monday night. That deployment follows criticism that both the town and the state should have been better prepared for the outburst of anger and rioting that followed the announcement on Monday that a grand jury would not indict the police officer who shot and killed a young, African-American man. St. Louis Public Radio's Tim Lloyd reports.

TIM LLOYD, BYLINE: Let's start on Monday of last week. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has just issued a state of emergency and activated the Missouri National Guard. During a call with reporters, he's asked if the buck stops with him when it comes to how protesters will be handled by police.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GOVERNOR JAY NIXON: Well, I mean, we're - you know. You know, it - you know, our goal here is to, you know, keep the peace and allow folks' voices to be heard.

LLOYD: Nixon stumbles through the rest of the answer.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NIXON: I prefer not to be a commentator on it. I'm making decisions as a - in a - to make sure that we're all prepared for all contingencies.

LLOYD: At a press conference the next day, Nixon says he's ultimately in charge of public safety in the state. Fast-forward a week, and fires are still smoldering in Ferguson the morning after some protests turned explosive and violent. Police say heavy gunfire made it too dangerous for firefighters to respond quickly.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR PETER KINDER: What is the Guard for if not to go in and stop that?

LLOYD: That's Missouri's Republican Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder, who seldom hesitates to criticize Nixon, a Democrat. Nevertheless, he backed Nixon's move to issue a state of emergency in advance of the grand jury's decision.

KINDER: Why a governor who had done that - who'd taken those proactive steps on the front end - would hold the Guard back is on the minds every law-abiding Missouri citizen and taxpayer.

LLOYD: Not the least of whom is Ferguson Mayor James Knowles, who tried to be diplomatic in his criticism.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MAYOR JAMES KNOWLES: The decision to delay the deployment of the National Guard is deeply concerning. We are asking that the governor make available and deploy all necessary resources to prevent the further destruction of property and the preservation of life in the city of Ferguson.

LLOYD: Shortly after those comments, Governor Nixon announced he was calling in 1,500 more troops. Though some fear that decision embodies a militarized approach that could incite more violence. But David Klinger, a professor of criminology at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, says that's not the biggest issue here.

DAVID KLINGER: They are not people on sides of the divide that want to make things work for peaceful protest. All of the discussions, all of the meetings and all of the goodwill can be for naught if you've got these bad actors that want to act badly.

LLOYD: And the planning and discussions in the run-up to the grand jury's decision were exhaustive. Protesters held countless training events for nonviolence and conflict resolution. Politicians and religious leaders made repeated calls for peace. Protesters and the police were even able to agree on some guidelines for demonstrations. But activists didn't get the heads-up they wanted before the decision, which they argue would have helped them mobilize to keep the peace.

In the morning after the grand jury's decision, the crumpled-up remains of businesses smoldered on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson. Police blocked off the road as a crowd gathered in the parking lot of Family of Faith Missionary Baptist Church. Rodney Vance lives nearby and is looking at the burned-out remains of local shops.

RODNEY VANCE: People that we depend and people that are here protect us - they don't have our back the way they supposed to. And I believe that the Guard could've protect the firefighters and policemen to get everything under control.

LLOYD: But holding on to control is slippery. And it's quite possible that as long as African-American residents like Rodney Vance feel so deeply disenfranchised, trust will become another casualty here. For NPR News, I'm Tim Lloyd in St. Louis.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Support St. Louis Public Radio

Stories like these are made possible by contributions from readers and listeners like you.