[guest post by Dana]
As Ferguson readies for an impending grand jury decision of whether to indict the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, the Don’t Shoot Coalition is asking for a 48-hour advance notice before the release of the decision, explaining:
“We want to de-escalate violence, but we do not want to de-escalate action,” said Don’t Shoot co-chair Michael McPhearson, during a press conference Wednesday.
Along with the advance notice, the group would also like law enforcement to adhere to their 19 Rules of Engagement. The list begins with an item that all concerned parties certainly agree with:
The first priority shall be the preservation of human life.
Here is a sampling of further demands:
Police will wear only the attire minimally required for their safety. Specialized riot gear will be avoided except as a last resort.
Crowd control equipment such as armored vehicles, rubber bullets, rifles and tear gas will not be used.
Strategically, police will allow protests to take and occupy larger and more disruptive spaces than would normally be tolerated, and will allow occupation of those spaces for longer periods of time than normally tolerated.
Police will be instructed to be more tolerant of more minor lawbreaking (such as thrown water bottles) when deciding to escalate the use of force.
Police rank and file will be instructed to provide every latitude to allow for free assembly and expression, treating protesters as citizens and not “enemy combatants”.
Coalition member Montague Simmons, who also chairs the Organization for Black Struggle, stated:
“People are going to pour into the streets, either in celebration or in rage…”
He said the rules are meant to promote safety and transparency.
“It’s in the best interest of the public that the police and the elected officials who control the actions of the police work together to protect the rights of those engaged in civil disobedience in the expression of their First Amendment rights of speech and assembly.”
In a statement Sgt. Brian Schellman, a spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Department responded:
“The St. Louis County Police Department endorses the statement from the Don’t Shoot Coalition regarding the sanctity and preservation of human life. To that end, and in the spirit of building communications, members of the Unified Command have met with the coalition to define common goals.”
According to the attorney for the Brown family, the family does not want to see an aftermath of violence:
Mr. Brown’s parents are preparing to call on the people of Ferguson not to react violently to the grand jury’s decision, even though they have little faith in the prosecutor, according to their lawyer, Benjamin L. Crump. “We want people to pray that the system will work, but the family doesn’t have much confidence at all,” Mr. Crump said. Nor, he added, are they confident that the local police will deal properly even with peaceful protesters.
Simply put, it’s likely to get really ugly in Ferguson. And sadly, if there is no decision to indict, it will certainly be seen by the family and protesters that the system did not work for them. And, as the expectation may appear to be leaning toward no indictment, there is a sense of dread about things to come:
Government officials have said that forensics tests showed Mr. Brown’s blood on Officer Wilson’s gun, giving credence to the officer’s account that at one point he was pinned in his vehicle and engaged in a struggle over his gun with Mr. Brown. He told investigators that he had feared for his life, and police officers are typically given wide latitude to defend themselves if they feel their safety is threatened.
Nor are civil rights charges expected. Federal officials have said that while their investigation is continuing, the evidence so far does not support such a case against Officer Wilson.