Law enforcement in Ferguson, Missouri, have agreed on "rules of engagement" with some organized activist groups to ensure demonstrations are peaceful when a grand jury decision is issued in the coming days on whether or not to indict a white police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in early August.
The incident sparked weeks of sometimes violent protest in the St. Louis suburb and has become a flashpoint for U.S. race relations.
Friday, St. Louis County's top executive Charlie Dooley said he is "expecting the best" no matter what the grand jury decides. Dooley said he found it hopeful "that we can sit around the table even though we have different opinions." He called the process of drafting the rules of engagement "respectful."
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Protest groups from around the country are planning to descend on Ferguson in large numbers if the grand jury exonerates Officer Darren Wilson, and local police have drawn up contingency plans in case the demonstrations turn violent.
The grand jury has been in session since the end of August and is continuing to deliberate the case.
Earlier Friday, the father of the slain teenager appealed for calm ahead of the grand jury decision. In a video posted online, Michael Brown Senior said hurting others or destroying property is "not the answer" to frustration over what is seen as racial injustice.
U.S. Attorney Eric Holder — the nation's top law official — issued new guidance on Friday to law enforcement authorities about how to maintain public safety while allowing protesters to express themselves.
Holder accompanied the new guidelines with a plea for peaceful protest.
"I ask all those who seek to lend their voice to important causes and discussions and who seek to elevate these vital conversations, to do so in a way that respects the gravity of their subject matter," he said.
Holder added that throughout history "the most successful and enduring movements for change are those that adhere to non-aggression and nonviolence."
Stories differ as to what happened August 9 when Officer Wilson shot Michael Brown. 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.