St. Louis County Declares State Of Emergency In Wake Of Ferguson Protests Commemorating Michael Brown's Death One Year Ago
One day after protests commemorating the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, the St. Louis County executive issued a state of emergency that puts St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar in charge of all police management in Ferguson and the surrounding areas. Steve Stenger, the county executive, issued a statement Monday afternoon giving Belmar permission to "exercise all powers and duties necessary to preserve order, prevent crimes, and protect the life and property of our citizens." Protests in Ferguson turned violent Sunday night after, police claim, a gun was fired at an unmarked car holding four St. Louis County plainclothes detectives. Police allegedly returned fire, shooting Tyrone Harris, an 18-year-old, who was sent to the hospital in critical condition. In a statement, Stenger said:
In light of last night’s violence and unrest in the City of Ferguson, and the potential for harm to persons and property, I am exercising my authority as county executive to issue a state of emergency, effective immediately.
The recent acts of violence will not be tolerated in a community that has worked so tirelessly over the last year to rebuild and become stronger. The time and investment in Ferguson and Dellwood will not be destroyed by a few that wish to violate the rights of others.
The protests on Sunday night turned to a situation eerily similar to a year ago, when protests broke out after white police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. Protests broke out again in November, when the city awaited a decision on whether or not a grand jury would indict Wilson for Brown's death. At that time, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency, calling in the National Guard because of the possibility of more "unrest."
The decision to activate the National Guard last year was heavily criticized, as the public questioned why the police force was militarized to handle what were mostly peaceful protests. Although a state of emergency has been declared now, it has not been confirmed that the National Guard will deploy to Ferguson, though the executive order issued by Stenger allows for Belmar to spend funds, obtain emergency management equipment, appoint emergency operations teams or personnel, and take nearly any action deemed necessary to preserve order, prevent crime, execute arrests, and preserve the peace.