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Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

  • VOA News

Protesters, demanding the criminal indictment of a white police officer who shot dead an unarmed black teenager in August, shout slogans while marching through a suburb in St. Louis, Missouri, Nov. 23, 2014.

Protesters, demanding the criminal indictment of a white police officer who shot dead an unarmed black teenager in August, shout slogans while marching through a suburb in St. Louis, Missouri, Nov. 23, 2014.

Residents remain on edge in the central U.S. town of Ferguson, Missouri, as they await word on whether a grand jury will indict a white police officer for the August shooting death of an unarmed African-American teenager during a street confrontation.

The grand jurors met Friday but apparently did not reach a decision. They are expected to reconvene on Monday, although there is no official confirmation of deliberations scheduled for that day.

More than three months have passed since police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, killed 18-year-old Michael Brown after some sort of confrontation in the middle of a street in the St. Louis suburb. The shooting triggered riots and looting, and police responded with armored vehicles and tear gas.

Stories differ as to what happened August 9. Lawyers for Brown's family say he was trying to surrender when the officer shot him. Wilson's supporters say he shot Brown in self-defense.

The grand jury, a body of citizens selected to examine the validity of an accusation before trial, has been deliberating since the end of August.

‘Rules of engagement’

Law enforcement officials in Ferguson have agreed on "rules of engagement" with some organized activist groups, hoping to ensure that any demonstrations are peaceful when the grand jury decision is issued.

The deadly shooting incident sparked weeks of sometimes violent protests in the St. Louis suburb, which has become a flashpoint for U.S. race relations.

Protest groups from around the country are planning to descend on Ferguson in large numbers if the grand jury exonerates Wilson. Local police have drawn up contingency plans in case the demonstrations turn violent.

The father of the slain teenager appealed for calm Friday. In a video posted online, Michael Brown Senior said hurting others or destroying property is "not the answer" to frustration over what is seen by many as racial injustice.

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