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FILE - In this Feb. 10, 2011, file photo, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch speaks in St. Louis. Not much is normal about the Missouri grand jury responsible for deciding whether to charge a suburban St. Louis police officer for fatally shooting Michael Brown. Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, shot the black unarmed 18-year-old shortly after noon on Aug. 9 in the center of a street, after some sort of scuffle occurred between them.  McCulloch hasn't publicly suggested any particular charge against Wilson. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam, File)

FILE – In this Feb. 10, 2011, file photo, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch speaks in St. Louis. Not much is normal about the Missouri grand jury responsible for deciding whether to charge a suburban St. Louis police officer for fatally shooting Michael Brown. Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, shot the black unarmed 18-year-old shortly after noon on Aug. 9 in the center of a street, after some sort of scuffle occurred between them. McCulloch hasn’t publicly suggested any particular charge against Wilson. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam, File)

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Not much is normal about the Missouri grand jury responsible for deciding whether to charge a suburban St. Louis police officer for fatally shooting Michael Brown.

Not the length of deliberations, not the manner in which it has heard evidence, not the way in which its work could be made public. Then again, the case itself is unusual.

Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, shot the black unarmed 18-year-old shortly after noon on Aug. 9 in the center of a street, after some sort of scuffle occurred between them. As Brown’s body lay there for hours, an angry crowd gathered. Riots and looting occurred the next night. In the following days, police responded with tear gas and smoke canisters as some protesters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails.

The Associated Press spoke with a veteran prosecutor and criminal defense attorney in Missouri about the typical grand jury process – and the ways the Brown case is far from the norm.

EXTRA TIME

At the time of Brown’s shooting, a St. Louis County grand jury already had been hearing cases and was scheduled to disband Sept. 10. In one of the first indications that Brown’s case would be different, a judge extended the jurors’ service until January, the maximum amount of time allowed.

Whereas a typical case might be presented to a grand jury in a single day, this case has stretched over three months.

NO SPECIFIC CHARGE

It’s fairly common in Missouri for a prosecutor to first file a complaint charging an individual with a crime, then go later to a grand jury asking it to indict the person for that offense. In this case, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch hasn’t publicly suggested any particular charge against Wilson.

NUMEROUS WITNESSES

Often, a grand jury hears testimony from just one or a few people, such as police investigators who summarize physical evidence and statements they’ve gathered from witnesses. In this case, McCulloch has said “all witnesses with any relevant evidence” were being summoned to testify.

TYPES OF WITNESSES

Typically, a prosecutor presents only witnesses who would aid his quest for an indictment. The target of the inquiry does not typically testify. But Wilson testified to the grand jury considering charges against him. Grand jurors also heard from a forensic expert hired by Brown’s family – unusual because such testimony typically comes only from government sources.

RECORD KEEPING

There often is no record of exactly what’s said in Missouri grand juries. That’s because only the jurors, witness and prosecutor are in the room. In this case, however, McCulloch’s office has said the proceedings are being recorded and transcribed.

SECRETS MADE PUBLIC

What’s said in a grand jury typically remains secret under Missouri law, though when an indictment is issued, the evidence can be aired at a trial. If Wilson is not indicted, McCulloch says he will ask a judge for permission to publicly release the grand jury evidence as soon as possible.

FOR BETTER OR WORSE

Opinion is divided about whether the unusual aspects of this grand jury will inspire trust or skepticism.

Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd, a past president of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, believes the differences are beneficial.

“At the end of the day, whether Officer Wilson is indicted or not, it’s important that the public have confidence that the system worked as it should,” Zahnd said. “For that reason, the grand jury going above and beyond the norm is very, very appropriate.”

Susan McGraugh, supervisor of the Criminal Defense Clinic at the Saint Louis University School of Law, said all the exceptions to the norm appear to be heightening tensions among residents, particularly among racial minorities who believe they’re treated differently by police.

The police officer is “getting a whole special grand jury process,” McGraugh said. “I think it really adds to the consternation – you know, the frustration – that people are feeling.”

FILE - In this Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011, file photo, U.S. Army Pfc. Garrick Carlton, center, of Sacramento, Calif., hikes past burning rubbish to man a hilltop observation post along with fellow Pfc. Michael Tompkins, of Wadsworth, Ohio, left, and Pfc. Austin D'Amica, of San Diego, at Combat Outpost Monti in Kunar province, Afghanistan. U.S. officials say President Barack Obama has quietly approved guidelines in recent weeks to allow the Pentagon to target Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, broadening previous plans that had limited the military to counterterrorism missions against al-Qaida after 2014. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

FILE – In this Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011, file photo, U.S. Army Pfc. Garrick Carlton, center, of Sacramento, Calif., hikes past burning rubbish to man a hilltop observation post along with fellow Pfc. Michael Tompkins, of Wadsworth, Ohio, left, and Pfc. Austin D’Amica, of San Diego, at Combat Outpost Monti in Kunar province, Afghanistan. U.S. officials say President Barack Obama has quietly approved guidelines in recent weeks to allow the Pentagon to target Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, broadening previous plans that had limited the military to counterterrorism missions against al-Qaida after 2014. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

(Washington) (AP) – President Barack Obama has quietly approved guidelines in recent weeks to allow the Pentagon to target Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, broadening previous plans that had limited the military to counterterrorism missions against al-Qaida after this year, U.S. officials said late Friday.

The president’s decisions also allow the military to conduct air support for Afghan operations when needed. Obama issued the guidelines in recent weeks, as the American combat mission in Afghanistan draws to a close, thousands of troops return home, and the military prepares for narrower counterterrorism and training mission for the next two years.

Obama’s moves expand on what had been previously planned for next year. One U.S. official said the military could only go after the Taliban if it posed a threat to American forces or provided direct support to al-Qaida, while the latter could be targeted more indiscriminately.

“To the extent that Taliban members directly threaten the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support to al-Qaida, however, we will take appropriate measures to keep Americans safe,” the official said.

The Taliban’s presence in Afghanistan far exceeds that of al-Qaida, adding significance to Obama’s authorization. The president’s decision came in response to requests from military commanders who wanted troops to be allowed to continue to battle the Taliban, the U.S. officials said.

The New York Times first reported the new guidelines. Officials confirmed details to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Obama’s decisions by name.

The decision to expand the military’s authority does not impact the overall number of U.S. troops that will remain in Afghanistan. Earlier this year. Obama ordered the American force presence to be cut to 9,800 by the end of this year, a figure expected to be cut in half by the end of 2015.

The president wants all U.S. troops to be out of Afghanistan a year later, as his presidency draws to a close.

Some of the Obama administration’s planning for the post-2014 mission was slowed by a political stalemate in Afghanistan earlier this year. It took months for the winner of the country’s presidential election to be certified, delaying the signing of a bilateral security agreement that was necessary in order to keep U.S. forces in the country after December.

In Kabul, officials with the Afghan Defense Ministry declined to comment Saturday, while officials with the presidency could not be reached.

However, Afghan military analyst Jawed Kohistani said the move likely would be welcomed as President Ashraf Ghani’s new administration upon taking office immediately signed a deal with the U.S. to allow a residual force of 12,000 foreign troops in the country.

“We have heard from many military officers who are involved in direct fighting with the Taliban and other insurgents that still there is a need for more cooperation, there is need for an ongoing U.S. combat mission and there is need for U.S. air support for the Afghan security forces to help them in their fight against the insurgents,” Kohistani said.

This image provided by the U.S. Navy shows Navy Vice Adm. Tim Giardina in a Nov. 11, 2011, photo. Giardina, fired last year as No. 2 commander of U.S. nuclear forces may have made his own counterfeit $500 poker chips with paint and stickers to feed a gambling habit that eventually saw him banned from an entire network of casinos, according to a criminal investigative report obtained by The Associated Press.   (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)

This image provided by the U.S. Navy shows Navy Vice Adm. Tim Giardina in a Nov. 11, 2011, photo. Giardina, fired last year as No. 2 commander of U.S. nuclear forces may have made his own counterfeit $500 poker chips with paint and stickers to feed a gambling habit that eventually saw him banned from an entire network of casinos, according to a criminal investigative report obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)

(Washington) (AP) – The admiral fired last year as No. 2 commander of U.S. nuclear forces may have made his own counterfeit $500 poker chips with paint and stickers to feed a gambling habit that eventually saw him banned from an entire network of casinos, according to a criminal investigative report obtained by The Associated Press.

Although Rear Adm. Timothy M. Giardina’s removal as deputy head of U.S. Strategic Command was announced last year, evidence of his possible role in manufacturing the counterfeit chips has not previously been revealed. Investigators said they found his DNA on the underside of an adhesive sticker used to alter genuine $1 poker chips to make them look like $500 chips.

Nor had the Navy disclosed how extensively he gambled.

The case is among numerous embarrassing setbacks for the nuclear force. Disciplinary problems, security flaws, weak morale and leadership lapses documented by The Associated Press over the past two years prompted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Nov. 14 to announce top-to-bottom changes in how the nuclear force is managed that will cost up to $10 billion.

The records obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act show Giardina was a habitual poker player, spending a total of 1,096 hours – or an average of 15 hours per week – at the tables at the Horseshoe casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in the 18 months before being caught using three phony chips in June 2013.

He was such a familiar figure at the casino, across the Missouri River from his office near Omaha, Nebraska, that some there knew him as “Navy Tim.” But they may not have known he was a three-star admiral and second-in-charge at Strategic Command, the military’s nuclear war-fighting headquarters. Strategic Command also plays key roles in missile defense, cyberdefense, space operations and other functions.

A career submarine officer, Giardina is a 1979 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.

Such was Giardina’s affection for poker that even after he was caught he “continued to come in and gamble on a regular basis” at Harrah’s casino, also located in Council Bluffs, according to an account by an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent that was turned over to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service after NCIS took over the case in August 2013.

On July 18 Giardina was banned from both the Horseshoe and Harrah’s for 90 days, but he returned at least twice to play poker at the Horseshoe before the ban expired. The second time, in October, he was given a lifetime ban from all gambling establishments run by the Horseshoe’s owner, Caesar’s Entertainment Corp.

The report included Giardina’s remarks to a casino security agent about the polygraphs given at Strategic Command to officers holding security clearances.

“(What) they’re really trying to do is find out if you got, you know, if you’re having sex with animals or something really crazy or you’ve got this wild life that you could be blackmailed into giving military secrets out,” he was quoted as saying.

At Strategic Command, Giardina was privy to highly sensitive national security secrets. Legal gambling by Strategic Command officers with security clearances is not prohibited or limited by policy, although if they incur excessive debt they are required to report it, according to the command’s chief spokeswoman, Navy Capt. Pamela Kunze.

Six days after he received the lifetime Caesar’s ban, Giardina was kicked out of the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas, according to the NCIS records that gave no reason for that expulsion. That casino is not a Caesar’s property.

The state investigator’s report also said a review of surveillance footage revealed “odd behaviors” by Giardina at the Horseshoe.

“Giardina was observed taking cigarette butts out of public ash trays and smoking them,” it said.

Giardina, who remains on the Navy payroll as a staff officer in Washington, was never charged with counterfeiting. Instead he was found guilty in May 2014 of two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer – lying to an investigator and passing fake gambling chips. He was given a written reprimand and ordered to forfeit $4,000 in pay.

The Navy chose not to pursue a court martial because they were uncertain they could get a conviction with the evidence they had, officials said.

In early September 2013 Giardina was quietly suspended from his post at Strategic Command, which he had assumed in December 2011. One month later he was fired and reduced in rank from three-star to two-star admiral.

Giardina did not respond to an AP email request Friday for comment on the investigation report. In May, after the Navy announced his punishment, Giardina told the AP he had no comment.

NCIS denied AP’s original request for the investigation records but released them this month after granting an AP appeal.

Thanksgiving

Each fall, as our homes fill with the sights, smells and sounds of the impending holiday season, we also find ourselves counting our blessings.

Thanksgiving brings friends and family together again to join in a feast. While our blessings are abundantly clear during these events, it also reminds us to be thankful daily.

Although many of our day-to-day activities can be the source of frustration, we should realize that many are in fact blessings in disguise and should be viewed as such. Consider the following:

The farmer on his tractor that inches his way along the twisty and narrow two-lane highway may have caused you to be late for work, but his hard work and the years of back breaking labor on that old rusty tractor has allowed for the feast on your table to be as plentiful this year as it was last.

After a hectic day of work, you run to the corner store, but they are out of nearly all of the items on your list. Be thankful for the small town corner store, the jobs it provides and the history it holds. Many have been forced to close their doors the past few years turning the “quick trip to the store” into a 30 minute drive to the nearest gas station/convenience store, hoping they have the items you need.

The frustration of another busier than average day at work, causing you to work later than anticipated. Be thankful and count your blessings. In the past few years, many people have lost their jobs, and too many of them are still looking for work. There are those who would call you blessed to have the very job that is sometimes so frustrating.

For those of us who are older, it is easy to caution our children to have patience with their own young ones. The loud noises, doors slamming, cries in the middle of the night and what seems like an endless list of needs and wants, from our children, no matter their age, are blessings and moments to cherish.

Our families are truly the most divine blessing any of us could have. I hope you take the time this holiday season to count your blessings and spend time making more memories. Next year, those memories will be additional blessings for which to be thankful.

As always, I appreciate it when groups from around Missouri and from our community back home come to visit me at the Capitol, however during interim I may be in district. If you would like to arrange a time to come and visit me in Jefferson City, or if you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.

2014 General Election Produces Historic Republican Majority

It was just a few days ago that more than 1.4 million Missourians made their voices heard by voting in the November general election. That sounds like an impressive number, but voter turnout was actually a bit lower than expected this year. Our Secretary of State’s Office had anticipated slightly lower than 40 percent turnout, and the final tally amounted to turnout of just more than 35 percent. Ultimately, that means that while more than 1.4 million Missourians voted, another 2.6 million registered voters opted not to participate in the election. These are numbers we want to continue to work to improve by keeping voting a process that is easy and accessible to all while also making elections safe, secure and free from voter fraud.

The Missourians who did take the time to cast their ballots sent Republicans to the state House in record numbers. Never before in the history of Missouri have we seen this many Republicans hold office in the Missouri House. The 117 Republicans elected to serve increased further when a conservative Democrat switched parties the day after the election. The 118-member super majority represents the most members either party has had in the House since 1965-66 when Democrats held 123 seats. It also represents the second highest percentage of seats held by Republicans. The only greater majority for Republicans occurred in 1921-22 when they held 104 out of 142 seats or 73.2 percent of the total seats in the Missouri House. For the 98th General Assembly, Republicans will control 72.4 percent of the 163 seats.

What this means to me and my colleagues is that the people of Missouri have said they believe in the pro-growth, pro-jobs, fiscally conservative, family-oriented values that Republican legislators have fought to defend for more than a decade now as they have controlled the legislature. While we don’t have our agenda for the upcoming session set in stone at this time, we do know that a few key areas will receive our attention:

• Economic development incentives that invest in small business

• Education initiatives that keep decisions on the local level while also improving job readiness;

• Developing new ways to bolster our vital agriculture industry; and

• Continuing our efforts to move our state toward energy independence.

These are just a few of the goals mentioned by the new members of House leadership that we selected the day after the election. You can be certain that the list will grow and change in the coming weeks as the Republican caucus continues to discuss its priorities, and we continue to take input from the people who have entrusted us to serve as their voice in the halls of government.

As always, you have my most sincere thanks for your support and I look forward to again serving you and your family, as well as all of the communities in our district. The next few weeks will be a busy time as we enjoy the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, but I want to remind you that my door is always open, and I am always ready to take your call or email if you have something you want to discuss. I am here to serve you and I greatly value your input on issues both great and small. Please keep that in mind and don’t hesitate to contact me. Thanks again for giving me the immense honor of serving as your state representative.

As always, it is an honor to serve the good folks of the 153rd District. If you would like to discuss any issue, please call 573-751-1066 or you can e-mail me at steve.cookson@house.mo.gov .

A History of Thanksgiving

It’s no secret that one of the very first acts of Congress, dating back to 1789, resolved to ask Mr. President for a selected day to celebrate Thanksgiving. A few days later, Washington fulfilled this request, calling November 26th a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin.” It wasn’t until Abraham Lincoln, though–in the middle of the Civil War, that the first annual National Day of Thanksgiving and Praise was proclaimed. I offer Lincoln’s words for your perusal:

“… No human counsel have devised nor have any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens and every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly do to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as it may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and Union.”

Have a blessed Thanksgiving Holiday.

(Mountain Home) – On Tuesday, November 25, Cotter and Flippin students, grades 8-12, have been invited to participate in a Career Cluster Camp at Arkansas State University-Mountain Home. More than 64 students are expected to attend.

The Career Cluster Camp will cover hands-on projects that mimic work a student might do if they selected a career in the Arts or Health Sciences. Projects will be coordinated by local volunteers who currently work in the fields being covered.

A Production Camp is slated for students interested in careers in the Arts, Audio/Video Technology, and Communications. Volunteers for the Production Camp include:

  • Rickey Crawford and Mason Bassford (ASUMH), representing the field of Sound, Lighting, and Production Tech.
  • Heather Loftis and Tim Tibbs (KTLO) will represent the field of Radio.
  • Gil Reynolds (XL7-TV) will represent the field of television.
  • Rebecca Smith (Twin Lakes Playhouse) will represent the field of acting.
  • Jim Bodenhamer will represent the field of journalism.
  • For the Health Science Cluster, students will participate in a Scrubs Camp. The volunteers for Scrubs Camp are:
  • Dr. Sara Shedenhelm (All Creatures) will represent the field of Veterinarian Medicine.
  • Wynne Woodard (BRMC) will represent the field of nursing.
  • Bonnie Brown, Kirk Brown, and Kerrie Hall (Billing Specialists, Inc.) will represent the field of Medical Coding.
  • Deanna Grace will represent the field of Home Health (Gerontology).
  • Corey Dicks (BRMC) will represent the field of EMT/Paramedic.

Students will arrive by 8:45 at the Vada Sheid Community Development Center and the camp will begin at 9:00 and run until noon. Lunch will be provided for attendees and volunteers and Laura Newth, owner of Twin Lakes McDonald’s Restaurants, will address the group from 12:20 – 12:45.

For more information, contact: Jennifer Dunn, CDF, College and Career Coach for Flippin and Cotter High Schools, Arkansas State University – Mtn. Home, at (870) 405-9716.

(Eureka Springs) (AP) – Three Arkansans involved with watershed protection activities have been honored with awards.

The awards were presented on Friday on the final day of the 2014 Arkansas Watershed Conference, sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

The Ginger Tatom Professional of the Year Award was presented to Lyle Godfrey, a 36-year employee of the Arkansas Department of Health. Dennis Dean received the Volunteer of the Year Award. The Professional of the Year and Volunteer of the Year awards were chosen from a list of nominees submitted to the conference organizers.

The Peoples’ Choice Award, voted on by conference attendees for the best exhibit or presentation, went to Bryant Baker of the Beaver Watershed Alliance.

About 70 persons attended the biennial conference, organized by the ADEQ’s Watershed Outreach and Education Section.

(Springfield) (AP) – A man accused of fleeing from Texas and Montana amid child molestation investigations has been captured in southwest Missouri.

The Springfield News-Leader reports that Springfield police arrested 55-year-old Johnny Benjamin Napier on Thursday at a trailer park after getting a tip from a neighbor. A federal arrest warrant had been issued for Napier in April in Montana after he was charged federally with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

It wasn’t immediately clear if he had an attorney.

The FBI says that Napier left Comanche, Texas, in 2011 after he was charged in a molestation case. Authorities allege he then moved to Baker, Montana, but disappeared in August 2013 amid a molestation investigation there. He later was charged in Montana.

Authorities say Napier had been using the name Sean Denning.

National Action Network Ferguson chapter president Rev. Carlton Lee speaks during a news conference Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, in St. Louis County, Mo. Lee spoke about preparations as citizens wait for a decision from the grand jury whether to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

National Action Network Ferguson chapter president Rev. Carlton Lee speaks during a news conference Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, in St. Louis County, Mo. Lee spoke about preparations as citizens wait for a decision from the grand jury whether to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

(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.