(Ferguson) (AP) – Activists, authorities and the family of Michael Brown called for calm Friday as a grand jury drew closer to an announcement in the Ferguson police shooting. But it was unclear whether the panel was still at work or when it would render a decision.
Earlier in the day, a spokesman for St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch told reporters that jurors were reviewing evidence as they weigh whether to indict officer Darren Wilson.
Five hours later, Ed Magee declined to say whether the panel was still meeting.
The time, date and place for a news conference announcing the decision has not been decided, Magee said.
Wilson, 28, reportedly told the grand jury that he feared for his life on Aug. 9 as Brown, who was 6-foot-4 and nearly 300 pounds, came at him. Witnesses said Brown was trying to surrender and had his hands up.
The shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old black man by a white police officer led to protests, some of which turned violent. Demonstrations have continued for more than three months, though the number of protesters has dwindled and violence has become uncommon.
There were signs of rising tension.
Protesters were arrested Thursday outside Ferguson police headquarters for the second night in a row after around 40 demonstrators blocked South Florissant Road. One of the three people arrested pushed an officer and was hit with pepper spray, according to St. Louis County Police spokesman Brian Schellman.
Calls for peace and restraint emanated from several quarters, including President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and civil-rights leaders and business owners.
The most emotional appeal came from Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr.
“Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer,” Brown said in the video released by the group STL Forward. “No matter what the grand jury decides, I don’t want my son’s death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone.”
Holder issued a general reminder to police to prepare for demonstrations and to “minimize needless confrontation.”
His video message did not explicitly mention Ferguson, but it did reference demonstrations over the past few months that have “sought to bring attention to real and significant underlying issues involving police practices.”
“I know from firsthand experience that demonstrations like these have the potential to spark a sustained and positive national dialogue, to provide momentum to a necessary conversation and to bring about critical reform,” Holder said in the video.
“But history has also shown us that the most successful and enduring movements for change are those that adhere to nonaggression and nonviolence,” he added.
Eddie Hassaun of the civil rights group Justice Disciples urged protesters not to be confrontational and for police to follow suit.
“We’re looking for the action on the other side to be equally as committed to peace in the streets and peace for the demonstrators,” Hassaun said.
City, county and state leaders on Friday announced a “rules of engagement” agreement between police and roughly 50 protest groups. The pact is aimed at preventing violence on both sides.
Obama also urged Ferguson to keep the protests peaceful, saying all Americans have the right to peacefully assemble to speak against actions they regard as unjust. But, he said, using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to the rule of law.
The president commented in an interview with ABC News scheduled to air Sunday. The network released his comment about Ferguson on Friday night.
The civil rights organization Advancement Project said more than 70 protest actions are scheduled around the country, including occupying government space in Washington and a gathering at police headquarters in Chicago.
Concern about the aftermath of the announcement prompted one school district to call off classes for Monday and Tuesday. The Jennings district includes some students who live in Ferguson. It had previously planned to close for Thanksgiving starting Wednesday.
Antonio Henley, owner of Prime Time Beauty and Barber Shop in Ferguson, said concern about the pending announcement is hurting business.
“It’s been rough, especially these past few weeks leading up to the decision,” Henley said. “Our business has been cut in half because the people in the community are afraid to come around.”
The FBI has sent nearly 100 additional agents to Ferguson to help law enforcement agencies, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the FBI plans.
(Jefferson City) (AP) – President Barack Obama’s sweeping changes to U.S. immigration policies got a swift reaction from lawmakers and activists in Missouri, where the changes could apply to roughly 20,000 immigrants who are currently living illegally in the state.
Here are things to know about the debate in Missouri:
The president’s executive order, decried by Republicans as a presidential overstep, protects as many as 5 million people from deportation. About 11 million immigrants are illegally living in the U.S.
Those who stand to benefit the most are immigrants who’ve been living in the U.S. illegally for more than five years but whose children are citizens or permanent residents. After background checks and fees, those individuals will be able to obtain work permits. Obama is also expanding a 2012 directive that deferred deportation for some young immigrants.
IMMIGRATION IN MISSOURI
About 65,000 immigrants were living in Missouri illegally as of 2012, based on the most current data available, according to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.
The group reports that Obama’s executive order extends to about 20,000 of those immigrants to stay and work in Missouri. Noncitizens must have documentation of their immigration status to apply, such as a passport or work permit, according to Missouri Department of Revenue spokeswoman Michelle Gleba.
A federal work permit also makes immigrants eligible for unemployment insurance benefits and workers’ compensation if they meet certain requirements, Department of Labor spokesman Tom Bastian said.
Missouri Republicans chastised Obama’s actions as an unconstitutional overreach of his presidential powers, though many were mum on whether they supported the changes.
U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer said Obama should instead focus on existing laws approved by Congress, including completing a border fence and enforcing tax and welfare fraud laws against immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. “Immigration reform is much too complex and too important to not properly go through the legislative process,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt cautioned that an executive order wasn’t a lasting solution, noting that another executive order could override Obama’s decision.
Democrats were more divided in their response. U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill bucked her party and joined Republicans in criticizing Obama for sidestepping Congress, saying the immigration system was broken, “but executive orders aren’t the way to do it.”
U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay supported the executive order, calling it “the single smartest thing that we could do to spur economic growth.” He also said the changes would help millions of people “who till our fields, cook our meals, clean our offices and care for our loved ones,” and give them an opportunity to “finally live free from fear.”
A TEMPERED VICTORY
Some immigrant advocacy organizations said the new policies don’t go far enough. The orders only temporarily help less than half of the roughly 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally, and can be undone by the next president, said Vanessa Crawford Aragon, executive director of the Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Association.
She said Congress needs to address the issue, adding: “They’re the ones who can solve this problem once and for all.”
But the orders could have a positive economic impact on the state economy, said Carlos Gomez, president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Kansas City.
“Our economy needs them and industries need these folks,” Gomez said. “Let’s find a way that people can come out from the shadows.”
(Springfield) (AP) – Investigators have determined that a suspicious package found inside luggage that prompted a shutdown at a southwest Missouri airport did not contain an explosive device.
Transportation Security Administration screeners at Springfield Branson National Airport in Springfield detected the item at 9:30 a.m. Friday and stopped all incoming and outgoing flights. The city’s bomb squad removed the item and operations resumed around noon.
Airport manager Brian Weiler says three airplanes with passengers aboard waited on a taxiway while the device was removed from the airport.
The Springfield Fire Department issued a statement Friday afternoon saying law enforcement agencies acted out of caution to ensure the safety of the airport’s passengers.
The airport has nonstop flights to 10 U.S. cities and serves 750,000 passengers each year.
(Jefferson City) (AP) – On the surface, things look good for the Missouri Republican Party after winning commanding legislative majorities in the recent elections. But an internal battle is brewing over the party’s leadership because of concerns about lackluster fundraising heading into the 2016 elections.
Republican consultant John Hancock says he plans to challenge state party Chairman Ed Martin in a leadership election that will occur within the next couple of months. Hancock points to what he describes as a “complete collapse” in party fundraising.
At times this past year, the party has reported just a few thousand dollars in its bank accounts, with debts nearly equaling or exceeding the available cash.
“I am very concerned that the Republican Party does not have the resources to do the things that are necessary in 2016 to ensure Republican victories up and down the ballot,” Hancock said.
Martin acknowledged that fundraising is “a constant challenge,” but he added, “our finances are fine.” Martin said he’s still trying to rebuild the party after an era in which it routinely doled out sizable consulting contracts, including more than $1.6 million to Hancock’s firm from 2003-2012.
“I ran for chairman to stop the `business as usual’ consultant-based Missouri Republican Party that John Hancock embodies,” said Martin, who took over in January 2013.
The first step in the leadership battle will occur Saturday, when 34 Republican state senatorial district committees each elect two people to serve on the Missouri Republican State Committee. Those state committee members will elect the party chairman at a yet-to-be-determined later date.
Missouri’s 2016 elections will be big for the Republican and Democratic parties. In addition to a presidential race, Missouri’s ballot will include contests for the U.S. Senate and House, governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, secretary of state, attorney general and the state House and Senate. In several of those races, including for governor, there will be no incumbent – giving both parties an equal shot at those seats.
The high stakes have created a sense of urgency among some Republicans, who don’t want a repeat of the 2012 elections, when Democrats won a nationally watched U.S. Senate race and every statewide office on the Missouri ballot except lieutenant governor.
Martin, who lost a bid for attorney general that year, successfully challenged Republican Party Chairman David Cole following the 2012 elections.
“After 2012, the confidence in the Republican Party in Missouri was shaken. So we’ve had to re-earn that,” Martin said.
Martin said he has tried to implement a more “participatory model” for party members. He launched the Mighty MO Victory Crew, in which donations of at least $8.25 monthly are automatically charged to people’s credit cards. He estimated that 400 people have signed up.
But Hancock said a reliance on small-dollar donors is sinking the party’s finances. He notes that the number of businesses and individuals giving at least $5,000 has fallen by about half during Martin’s tenure.
As of Sept. 30, the Missouri Republican Party’s finance reports showed a balance of barely $1,300 in its state account and about $25,500 in its federal account with a debt of nearly $22,000. In the ensuing weeks, the House Republican Campaign Committee and individual state legislative candidates poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the state party. But the money was essentially just a transfer, so the state party could use its lower postage rates to mail fliers on behalf of the candidates.
Republican Party Treasurer Dick Peerson said the party’s finances are the worst he’s seen in a decade on the job.
“I don’t think it’s any secret that we’re not doing very well financially,” Peerson said. “It’s been tough fundraising.”
Hancock served as executive direct of the party from 1997-2004 and continued to be paid as party fundraiser through 2012. If elected chairman, Hancock said he would revive the party’s fundraising as a volunteer.
Martin said political party fundraising has changed dramatically in the past decade, partly because federal court rulings have freed independent committees to spend millions of dollars on elections and because Missouri no longer has campaign contribution limits for candidates.
“We’ve raised plenty of money,” said Martin, adding: “The proof is in the pudding. Did we succeed in 2014? I think we did.”
(Little Rock) (AP) – Judges in two Arkansas courtrooms are reviewing challenges to the state’s gay-marriage ban, but it’s possible such unions could still come to Arkansas by other means.
Lawyers say the most direct way would be under a U.S. Supreme Court decision, but a decision at the federal appeals court in St. Louis could have a bearing, too, even if they handle a case from outside Arkansas.
Justices at the Arkansas Supreme Court and U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker heard arguments Thursday in separate but similar lawsuits. Neither court said when it would rule.
Lawyers for gay couples seeking the right to marry say they expect a ruling from the state Supreme Court by the end of the year. That’s when two justices leave the court and two new ones join.
(Jennings) (AP) – A school district that includes some students from Ferguson, Missouri, is calling off classes Monday and Tuesday, citing potential unrest if a much-anticipated grand jury announcement occurs soon.
The Jennings School District had already planned to shut down Wednesday through the end of the week for Thanksgiving. A letter sent home to parents on Friday said that with the uncertainty regarding the grand jury announcement, closing schools for the entire week seemed like the most logical thing to do.
An announcement is expected soon about whether the grand jury will indict Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb on Aug. 9. The St. Louis region is bracing for protests over the decision.
(Springfield) – A suspicious item found by baggage handlers at Springfield-Branson National Airport closed the airport and diverted air traffic Friday morning.
The item was found around 9:30 AM and was collected by the Springfield Fire Department’s bomb squad so it could be examined and destroyed.
The airport is operational at this time. The owner of the baggage is being questioned by airport police and the FBI.
We’ll have more on this story later today.
(West Plains) – A boil water advisory has been issued in West Plains.
The order, effective Friday, November 21, affects all of Westmont Drive.
People in the area should boil drinking and cooking water for three to five minutes prior to consumption. Water used for bathing, cleaning, or hand washing does not need to be boiled.
The advisory will be in effect until further notice.
(Willow Springs) – The city of Willow Springs has issued a voluntary boil water advisory effective Friday, November 21 until further notice.
The areas affected by the boil order include the south side of Highway 76, including the Willow Springs Apartments and the Willow Care Nursing Home complex; and the north side of Highway 76, including homes between County Road 5250 and Highway Z.
People in these areas should boil all water that will be used for consumption for three minutes prior to use. Dispose of ice cubes and do not use ice from a household automatic ice maker. Remake ice cubes with water that has been boiled. Dishes can be disinfected by using water that contains one teaspoon of unscented household bleach per gallon of water.
For more information call Willow Springs City Hall at 417-469-2107.
(West Plains) – The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #43 is holding their 19th annual Shop With A Cop program in West Plains on December 13.
Ron Redfield with the West Plains Police Department spoke with Ozark Radio News and told us more about the program:
He added that funding is raised for the annual event through a number of channels:
Redfield said that donations are still being accepted to support this year’s event:
Any resident that knows of a child between the ages of three and twelve needing assistance for this year’s Christmas, or for those who want more information on the Howell County Shop With A Cop event, call the West Plains Police Department at 417-256-2244.