Governor Jay Nixon (D-MO) said yesterday that, if necessary, he will send the Missouri National Guard to Ferguson if violence breaks out after the grand jury’s decision on whether or not to indict Darren Wilson is announced, the New York Times reported.
“The Guard will be available when we determine it is necessary to support local law enforcement,” Nixon said at a press conference at a state highway patrol office. “Quite simply, we must and will be fully prepared.”
Nixon had previously called up the Guard in August as protests over Wilson fatally shooting unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown in the street. The decision to use the Guard, both then and yesterday, drew criticism from protesters, who saw it as a “military-style approach” rather than a means of keeping peace in the small Missouri town.
“As governor, the most important part of my job is keeping the people of Missouri safe … In the days immediately following Michael Brown’s death, peaceful protests were marred by senseless acts of violence and destruction,” Nixon said. “Vandals smashed the windows of small businesses. Criminals looted and set fire to stores. Gunshots and Molotov cocktails endangered citizens exercising their First Amendment rights and law enforcement attempt to maintain peace. That ugliness was not representative of Missouri, and it cannot be repeated.”
While it is true that a few violent protesters did overshadow the actions of those assembled peacefully, Nixon failed to mention the attacks by police on those peaceful protesters. Countless videos emerged during the weeks immediately following Brown’s death of cops using tear gas, rubber bullets, and walking through the streets dressed like they were going to war, semi-automatic weapons in hand.
One cop told demonstrators that he would “fucking kill” them; another cop threatened to shoot a reporter, saying “Get the fuck out of here. You get that light off our you’re getting shot with [his gun].”
Nixon is planning to have at least 1,000 officers on hand from the St. Louis County and City police departments and the State Highway patrol. As the Times reported, some of these departments have purchased new riot gear, assumingly in addition to the gear they already had during the protests over the summer.
“This is America,” Nixon said. “People have a right to express their views and grievances. But they do not have the right to put their fellow citizens or their property at risk.”
While Nixon is correct on that point, the people of Ferguson also have the right to assemble without being attacked by police officers with gear better suited for war in Iraq than a small town in Missouri angered by continuous injustice against its residents.