Feeling the weight borne by Ferguson grand jury members

As the nation waits for the grand jury’s decision in the police shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown, faith leaders, elected officials, and Brown’s parents are calling for calm. The grand jury reconvenes Monday, and a decision is expected soon.

David Goldman/AP
Protesters demonstrate about the August shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer, Saturday in Ferguson, Mo. The St. Louis area is on edge in anticipation of the announcement by a grand jury whether to criminally charge officer Darren Wilson in the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

One can only imagine the weight of responsibility now being felt by grand jurors in Ferguson, Missouri.

The case involving another white police officer shooting to death another black teenager is being watched around the world, especially by those dealing daily with racial issues and police-community relations. It’s already led to nights of destructive protest, many protesters already assuming guilt for Officer Darren Wilson.

The parents of 18 year-old Michael Brown, who struggled with Officer Wilson before dying as a result of multiple gunshot wounds, have called for calm.

“Hurting others and destroying others is not the answer,” Michael Brown Sr. says in a public service video. “No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone.”

Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, spoke to protesters Saturday night, urging people to be careful. "Don't agitate them, and don't let them agitate y'all," she said. "I don't want nobody getting hurt."

Preaching at the Greater St Mark Family Church Sunday, the Rev. Tommie Pierson urged the congregation to pull together as a community, Reuters reports. "The power to get what you need is already in our hands," he said. "You live in a democracy; you must participate."

Looking heavenward, Pierson said: "You alone know what the grand jury will do. You alone know what the marchers and demonstrators will do. We ask, oh God, for your protection."

US Attorney General Eric Holder has taken the lead among federal officials and agencies.

"History has … shown us that the most successful and enduring movements for change are those that adhere to non-aggression and nonviolence,” US Attorney General Eric Holder says in a video released by the Justice Department. Speaking Sunday on ABC, President Obama said, “Using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to rule of law and contrary to who we are.”

It was reported Sunday that the 12-member grand jury had gone home for the weekend and would reconvene Monday. A decision could come soon, or it could come later if additional witnesses are called.

Ed Magee, spokesman for the prosecuting attorney's office, told CNN the grand jury is focused on whether Wilson should be charged with any one of several possible crimes, including first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency and called in National Guard troops to back up police, which some protest leaders see as provocative.

No matter what the outcome of the grand jury’s deliberations and the immediate response, the Michael Brown tragedy is likely to result in important lessons for American society, especially law enforcement.

In the ABC interview Sunday, President Obama said, “Part of what I have asked Eric Holder to do is to not just engage with the folks in Ferguson, but to engage nationally in a conversation between law enforcement and communities of color that often times feel as if they not being treated fairly by law enforcement officials. Sometimes their concerns are justified, sometimes they’re not justified. Law enforcement has a very tough job. But what is clear is that that lack of trust between communities and law enforcement crops up not just in Ferguson but in places all across the country.”

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