FERGUSON, Missouri—-At least three places have offered themselves up as “sanctuary spaces” to provide food and shelter to protesters following the grand jury announcement as to whether Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson will be indicted on any charges for fatally shooting Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old teenager.
The August 9 incident set off a week and a half of violent confrontations between law enforcement and protesters in Ferguson. The grand jury is expected to reach a decision very soon and the county prosecutor’s office will announce it, as the people of St. Louis anxiously wait for the public reaction.
“[The sanctuary spaces] are anticipated as hotspots for after the announcement. I think around the street, we will have three sanctuary spaces. Sanctuary spaces will not be allowing entry to the police unless they come with a warrant signed by a judge,” Shona Clarkson told would-be protesters during a training session last week. “Those who are running these sanctuary sites all have the understanding they will not be allowing entrance to the police. So this is a place for protesters to go and be completely safe from the police.”
According to Clarkson, there will also be safe spaces available to protesters. The difference between a sanctuary and a safe space, she explained, was that the level of services, food and care would vary.
“Some [safe] spaces will only be available if you need to come in and use the bathroom and maybe rest for a few minutes, whereas other ones will have full activities and full meals,” she said.
Additionally, Clarkson pointed out that if protesters do not want to “risk arrest” to go to a safe space as opposed to a sanctuary space.
“There is a risk of arrest in going to sanctuary spaces. Churches–these institutions are exercising their right to become a sanctuary, but that doesn’t mean the police will respect that right.”
Among the sites in the St. Louis area offering sanctuary space to the protesters are St. Johns Episcopal in Shaw, Greater St. Mark Family Church in Ferguson, and Veterans for Peace in Clayton.