(AP) – Police will work to protect peaceful protesters after a grand jury’s decision in the Michael Brown shooting case is announced, but those who cross the line into violence will face consequences, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon warned Tuesday.
More than 1,000 police officers have received special training ahead of a decision expected later this month about whether Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, will face criminal charges for fatally shooting Brown, 18, who was black and unarmed.
The National Guard will be available if needed and a unified command of state, St. Louis city and St. Louis County police will provide security for protests.
At a news conference with law enforcement officials to outline preparations, Nixon recalled violent protests that occurred soon after Brown was killed in August.
“That ugliness was not representative of Missouri and it cannot be repeated,” he said.
Weeks of protests followed the shooting and some of the unrest including looting and rioting. Many businesses along West Florissant Road in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb, still have boards on their windows.
During the first days of mostly peaceful protests, police donned riot gear and patrolled in armored vehicles, drawing widespread criticism and raising questions about a program that supplies surplus military equipment to local police departments.
A small number of protesters attacked squad cars, tossed molotov cocktails at officers and, in a few cases, shot guns in the direction of police, who responded with tear gas, smoke canisters and rubber bullets. On many nights, dozens were arrested.
St. Louis County police initially handled security, but criticism of their tactics prompted Nixon to put Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson in charge. He and other police leaders said the response was necessary to protect officers, protesters and the public.