St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay reacted to Governor Jay Nixon’s declaration through an executive order that the National Guard would be activated for the next 30 days. Slay stressed to reporters at a press conference on Monday that the guard would not have a “front line role” in the midst of a reaction from the soon-to-be-expected decision of the St. Louis County grand jury relating to the death of Ferguson resident Mike Brown.
Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was fatally shot by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson on August 9. The incident sparked a violent face off between demonstrators and police immediately thereafter.
“They would not be on the front lines dealing with protesters under any circumstance, except if it was some kind of a major issue came up where they were needed. So keep in mind they’re just going to be here for backup—backfill and to protect various locations in the city of St. Louis. The other thing is, we have our police officers,” said Slay. “They’re going to be deployed and have been deployed for quite some time over the past several weeks; they’ve been running 12-hour shifts for some time, so they are tired and will be welcoming this backup support, by the way. But as I said, they will not be used on the front lines. They will not be interacting with protesters. They will be used in a secondary role and be accompanied by a police officer where they are and be in various locations.”
Slay told reporters that the Guard will be armed but continued to stress that they would not be engaging with protesters. Slay, however, did not specify any details about rules of engagement should protesters physically provoke the members of the National Guard.
When asked if lawlessness has spiked since August, Slay responded, “I can speculate like anybody else, but can tell you this, there’s been a lot of high-level emotion and anger in our region since August the 9th, understandably so.”
He continued, “And so we just have to make sure we understand that as we go forward, and I do think that most people believe, depending upon what results on the grand jury decision will probably have something to do with the reaction to it. What that all means, I’m certainly not going to speculate, but we are going to be prepared from a law enforcement standpoint to make sure that people and properties are safe, as well as protesters and demonstrators have an opportunity to express their First Amendment rights and protest in a peaceful way.”
Slay said that St. Louis residents should not panic about the circumstances and should continue to go about their days as normally as possible as they wait for the grand jury decision to be released.