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Businesses plan for civil unrest following Ferguson grand jury announcement

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CLAYTON, MO (KTVI)- With the ruling from the grand jury in the Michael Brown case expected in the next few weeks, many businesses are already looking at contingency plans for any civil unrest that might occur. And those preparations go well beyond Ferguson.

Of course there’s no way to know what or if anything will happen. That will depend, among other things on the decision. But businesses across the area are discussing what to do when that decision arrives.

The Boulevard shopping complex in Richmond Heights contains a number of upscale stores, and probably doesn’t look like a hotbed for unrest. But the owner of the property isn’t taking any chances.

In a letter widely shared online, Pace Property told all tenants in the complex to be ready for problems, even though there is no indication anything is headed their way.

"We are asking every store manager to give some serious thought to what your response would be in the event of demonstrations or civil unrest," the letter read.

In Clayton, various business owners say they’ve had a number of informal conversations about what could happen when word comes from the justice center, just up the street from many of their storefronts.

At the Diamond Shop, owner Thom Kohn says he’s just looking for guidance from the city.

“We’re hoping they’ll give us enough time to say this is what we’re expecting and this is what we suggest the merchants of Clayton do to be safe, to keep property safe, and hopefully things will stay peaceful,” he said.

Police say they’ve been going door to door trying to reassure shop owners. They’ve also sent out literature containing emergency preparedness tips.

“We have sent out cards to over 200 businesses to let them know how they can prepare for emergencies in the short term,” Clayton Police Chief Kevin Murphy said.

Murphy goes on to say he understands that people are on edge about what may be coming if the Grand Jury rules in favor of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.

“It’s an anxious time for everybody, I think it’s fair to say. But we’re prepared for it. Being the police for the county seat have dealt with demonstrations over many years, and I would say over the last six weeks we’ve had 10 or 15 demonstrations.”

Back at the Diamond Shop, they say they’re preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.

“We’ve thought about different things obviously,” Kohn said. “Different people have talked to us outside of Clayton. It’s for security and that If things escalate, unfortunately, as things did in Ferguson, I guess the prudent thing to do would be to board up your business just like other businesses did after that first night.”