FERGUSON, MO (KTVI) – There was a forceful message from Missouri Governor, Jay Nixon, and St. Louis area police leaders regarding the upcoming grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case: violence will not be tolerated.
Nixon also cited real progress from listening to the concerns of Ferguson residents, workers, business owners, and demonstrators.
Neither message went over well in Ferguson Tuesday night, just hours after Nixon’s news conference at Missouri Highway Patrol Troop C Headquarters.
The governor said more than 1000 police officers had undergone more than 5000 hours of training on how to best safeguard demonstrators' rights to free speech.
Workers and business owners wanted to hear their stores wouldn’t be looted.
Demonstrators want to hear about reforms on the police use of deadly force.
Protester practiced with a direction action expert from Austin, Texas, in Ferguson Tuesday night.
They training how to stay in control and peaceful yet still be effective.
There was feeling here the governor and police leaders were escalating, not de-escalating tension.
“Acts of violence will not be tolerated,” St. Louis Police Chief, Sam Dotson, warned at the news conference.
“We will make sure kids can go to school, seniors can feel safe,” said Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol.
“The residents and business of this region will be protected,” Governor Nixon pledged.
But workers and business owners who remember arming themselves when police stood by and allowed looting on West Florissant the week after the Mike Brown shooting, were hesitant to trust authorities this time.
They were worried about their safety at work and their kids’ safety at school.
“With that going on, I’ll just keep my kids at home,” said Seretha Billups, a worker at the Feel Beauty Supply store, which was looted while police “stood down”. “I just don’t want to take the risk. I don’t want something where I’m at work or they’re at the school and I can’t get to them in time. That would just hurt my conscience…it was so scary when we first got here (after the looting). We were looking around everything was broken. People were still running back and forth across the street.”
Demonstrators felt the news conference was a sign authorities still weren’t hearing them.
“We have to address the “shoot first” policy that let Darren Wilson act the way he did,” said demonstrator Ashley Yates, of the Ferguson Police Officer who shot Mike Brown.
“We have to address the real break in command that obviously existed before August 9 that allowed him to act with impunity and call dispatch when he felt like it. So those are all the things we need to address that the community has been shouting for 95 days. Let’s address this, let’s talk about this, let’s start there, and they haven’t.”
Nixon said there would be 2,000 youth jobs created in the Ferguson area come summer.
Sharpton released a statement saying essentially the governor was missing the key issues in the Mike Brown case: police conduct and accountability, especially in regards to African Americans.
Sharpton plans to be in Ferguson when the grand jury decision is released, to rally on those points while stressing non-violence.