Security boosted in Ferguson ahead of grand jury decision

A grand jury considering whether or not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, will reconvene for deliberations Monday, with a decision possibly coming next week. The NewsHour’s Stephen Fee is in Ferguson, where tension is building and security is ramping up.

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  • MAN:

    The stress level is high. We're waiting on this grand jury thing to come back.

  • STEPHEN FEE:

    Alongside West Florian Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri, this weekend, local activists who have been monitoring police behavior engaged in an impromptu dialogue with an officer who made a traffic stop.

  • MAN:

    I'm just saying, if my neighborhood growing up, whether they were good or bad people or not, the job is to help people.

  • STEPHEN FEE:

    Paul Muhammad and his wife founded the community group Peace Keepers Saint Louis shortly after the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown this past August.

  • PAUL MUHAMMAD:

    And pretty much our whole position since the unrest began in August was just to stand in the gap, that we would be a buffer between the police and our people to keep any more of our young people from getting hurt or getting killed.

  • STEPHEN FEE:

    Are we seeing a buildup and are you feeling more tension?

  • PAUL MUHAMMAD:

    Oh, man. I mean, the anxiety, the stress is very high. The tension is — is rising by the moment in anticipation of the announcement of the grand jury.

  • STEPHEN FEE:

    On Saturday, with speculation that a grand jury decision could be imminent, authorities put up barricades around a courthouse in nearby Clayton, Missouri.

    It's where that grand jury has been meeting to consider charges against officer Darren Wilson. And until they make that decision, this is a community that's holding its breath, waiting to see what kind of charges could be brought against that police officer and what the community's reaction will be.

  • DENISE LIEBERMAN:

    We're a region that's been in mourning with a family who has lost their son, and we're a region that — that's aware of the tensions that — that this incident has created. And as we await the grand jury's decision, everybody's tense, everybody's talking about this.

  • STEPHEN FEE:

    So far, no word, but that's not to say police and protesters aren't prepared.

    Last week, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in expectation of protests. And on Saturday, the FBI dispatched nearly 100 agents to support local law enforcement.

  • MAYOR FRANCIS SLAY:

    If protesters are nonviolent, police will not be aggressive. But if some protesters turn violent or threaten or are threatening, police will respond to keep everyone safe.

  • STEPHEN FEE:

    In the past days, government officials and community groups have met to set ground rules for any major demonstrations, with the priority of protecting lives.

    Still, youth protest organizer Ashley Yates is concerned about law enforcement's mobilization.

  • ASHLEY YATES:

    They have made it very clear that while we are organizing to create systemic change, they are organizing to suppress us.

  • STEPHEN FEE:

    We met with a group of local clergy dubbed Disciples of Justice that is pleading for peace, no matter what decision the grand jury makes.

  • EDDIE HASSAUN:

    We have been training people how to peacefully protest.

  • STEPHEN FEE:

    And Pastor Robert White of the Peace of Mind Church says the focus ought to remain on how young black men are treated by the police.

  • PASTOR ROBERT WHITE:

    This thing is not about just Mike Brown. It's about every African-American man throughout this country, ever minority.

  • STEPHEN FEE:

    In the meantime, onlookers and locals continue to gather where Michael Brown was shot this summer. And as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, they anxiously await whatever comes next.

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