Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed an executive order Monday activating the National Guard to assist law enforcement officials if needed following a grand jury decision whether to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.
The St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch has said an announcement of the grand jury's decision will be made later this month.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay added in a news conference Monday that the National Guard would play a secondary role to local police officers. Guard members would be deployed to protect local shopping centers, for example, instead of interacting directly with protesters.
"We do not want to make this look like it's the militarization of our police department," Slay said. "The cops are just here to keep the peace. They're not here to clash with protesters."
He added local law enforcement deserved appreciation for their efforts over the last weeks. Officers as well as local leaders have been talking with members of the protest movement, he added, in an aim to keep communication open if any conflict arises.
"We want everyone to know we're doing everything in our power, first of all, that people and property are going to be safe, and that protesters can protest freely," he said.
Last week, Nixon said the responsibility for managing protests and demonstrations after the grand jury's decision will be handled by a "unified" group consisting of Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis County Police Department, and St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. He said last week the National Guard has been part of the planning discussions.
"As part of our ongoing efforts to plan and be prepared for any contingency, it is necessary to have these resources in place in advance of any announcement of the grand jury's decision," Nixon said in a statement. "These additional resources will support law enforcement's efforts to maintain peace and protect those exercising their right to free speech."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri said it will continue to monitor authorities' handling of protesters. Bringing the National Guard in could have a positive effect, executive director Jeffrey Mittman said.
"If the Governor is removing jurisdictional barriers to allow the best trained officers – those most respectful of constitutional rights – to have operational control if a response is needed, it is good to have such a plan in place," he said. "The ACLU will monitor the implementation of this Order and we will continue to make sure that all law enforcement agencies uphold constitutional rights and civil liberties."
Brown was fatally shot by Wilson on Aug. 9.
The governor elaborated on his plans Monday evening, adding that the Guard would be deployed before the grand jury decision, which he expected within the next two weeks.
Nixon added he was committed to keeping residents safe while protecting free speech.
The Guard's presence would allow local police and the highway patrol to focus on the protests, Nixon said.
Read the Executive Order:
WHEREAS, the City of Ferguson and the St. Louis region have experienced periods of unrest over the past three months; and
WHEREAS, the United States Department of Justice and St. Louis County authorities are conducting separate criminal investigations into the facts surrounding the death of Michael Brown; and
WHEREAS, the United States Department of Justice and St. Louis County authorities could soon announce the findings of their independent criminal investigations; and
WHEREAS, regardless of the outcomes of the federal and state criminal investigations, there is the possibility of expanded unrest; and
WHEREAS, the State of Missouri will be prepared to appropriately respond to any reaction to these announcements; and
WHEREAS, our citizens have the right to peacefully assemble and protest and the State of Missouri is committed to protecting those rights; and
WHEREAS, our citizens and businesses must be protected from violence and damage; and
WHEREAS, an invocation of the provisions of Sections 44.010 through 44.130, RSMo, is appropriate to ensure the safety and welfare of our citizens.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JEREMIAH W. (JAY) NIXON, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and Laws of the State of Missouri, including Sections 44.010 through 44.130, RSMo, do hereby declare a State of Emergency exists in the State of Missouri.
I further direct the Missouri State Highway Patrol together with the St. Louis County Police Department and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to operate as a Unified Command to protect civil rights and ensure public safety in the City of Ferguson and the St. Louis region.
I further order that the St. Louis County Police Department shall have command and operational control over security in the City of Ferguson relating to areas of protests, acts of civil disobedience and conduct otherwise arising from such activities.
I further order that the Unified Command may exercise operational authority in such other jurisdictions it deems necessary to protect civil rights and ensure public safety and that other law enforcement agencies shall assist the Unified Command when so requested and shall cooperate with operational directives of the Unified Command.
I further order, pursuant to Section 41.480, RSMo, the Adjutant General of the State of Missouri, or his designee, to forthwith call and order into active service such portions of the organized militia as he deems necessary to protect life and property and assist civilian authorities and it is further directed that the Adjutant General or his designee, and through him, the commanding officer of any unit or other organization of such organized militia so called into active service take such action and employ such equipment as may be necessary to carry out requests processed through the Missouri State Highway Patrol and ordered by the Governor of the state to protect life and property and support civilian authorities.
This Order shall expire in thirty days unless extended in whole or in part by subsequent Executive Order.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the Great Seal of the State of Missouri, in the City of Jefferson, on this 17th day of November, 2014.