Robert Patrick, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 5, 2014
A coalition of roughly 50 groups concerned about issues brought to prominence by the fatal shooting of Michael Brown asked officials Wednesday to agree to “rules of engagement” for protests that will follow the grand jury decision about the shooting.
At a news conference in St. Louis, “Don’t Shoot Coalition” members said police should value safety first, and agree to a “de-militarized response” that would bar the use of armored vehicles, rubber bullets, rifles and tear gas. The group is asking for 48 hours notice of the public announcement of the decision, so that both the coalition and the public can prepare for the protests and the potential disruption to daily lives. They are also asking police to respect the safe spaces that they’re setting up in houses of worship near each anticipated area of protest activity, and ensure protesters can reach them.
Coalition co-chair Michael T. McPhearson, executive director of Veterans For Peace, said the group “must do what we can to ensure there’s not loss of life.” He said, “We want to de-escalate violence, but we do not want to de-escalate action.”
They said that had been attempting, unsuccessfully so far, to negotiate key elements with local and federal officials. And they said that they were offering training in de-escalation and for legal observers.
Coalition members said tensions were growing, fueled by three recent fatal police shootings and long-term problems that include racial profiling, a lack of diversity and accountability in law enforcement, inequality and a lack of trust in police and the judicial system. They also cited the failure of authorities to arrest Wilson and leaks of information about the investigation to the media. The group blamed police for escalating peaceful protests into violence, saying that given proper space, protesters have been self-policing.