For weeks, Ferguson, Mo., police and local leaders met with community groups and activists to work out a plan for the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision whether to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. Results of that effort quickly vanished after Monday night’s announcement as buildings burned and stores were looted, NPR reports. Activists who attended community meetings with local officials in preparation blamed both police and the county prosecutor for fueling the unrest. They question the decision to announce the grand jury’s findings at night and without much warning.
“I put what happened … directly at their feet,” said Montague Simmons, a leader of the Don’t Shoot Coalition, which represents 50 organizations involved in the protests. “We knew what would happen if they released this at night. If they had given us notice, we could have been prepared and worked with our people.” Simmons says his group planned and encouraged only nonviolent protests. On the streets, there was too much confusion followed by rage. Simmons says police officials wouldn’t work with the group. He says they didn’t agree to any of the requests at the meetings, such as appearing less threatening during protests by leaving military tactical gear in the police station. Conflict experts say the anger and distrust will only continue unless the police engage with the activists, working with members of their own community. (Last night, police told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that 45 people were arrested in the second and much calmer night of unrest, and they largely credited a beefed-up National Guard contingent.)