On Tuesday, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon revealed that preparations were being made for the grand jury announcement relating to this summer's shooting death of Michael Brown. Expected later this month, either in days or in weeks, the decision will determine if Ferguson officer Darren Wilson will be indicted. No matter which it is, plans are being made.
"This is America," Nixon said. "People have the right to express views and grievances, but they do not have the right to put fellow citizens and property at risk." And, in case this wasn't clear enough, he added: "Violence will not be tolerated."
Responding to Nixon, Damon Davis, an organizer for Millennial Activists United, told MSNBC: “For nearly 100 days, the preponderance of violence has come from the hands of police. We have proven we can peacefully assemble and function at a protest, can the police say the same?”
The gloomy symmetry doesn't end there. As for the brass tacks of the law enforcement plans, Nixon spoke of a "unified command" consisting of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis County Police, and St. Louis Metropolitan Police. Waiting in the wings for possible activation: The National Guard.
The governor's litany of particulars about the unified command dovetails uncomfortably with stories about how civilians are preparing from the grand jury announcement, which as CNN reports, involves a lot of stocking up on guns. (This was a reboot of a story in which gun sellers near Ferguson boasted that they were posting July-like sales numbers back in August.)
Dan McMullen, whose insurance business is close to where vandalism and looting sporadically broke out in August, told reporters he was now carrying an extra gun because it has a bigger magazine. "So maybe I get trapped here or something and have to have a John Wayne shootout. That's the silly part about it: Is that going to happen? Not a chance. But I guess, could it? I'm the only white person here."
Meanwhile, back at the press conference, Nixon told reporters that, ahead of the verdict, additional training has been provided for police⎯more than 5,000 hours for over 1,000 enforcement officers. This disclosure eerily coincides with testimonies from the owners of shooting ranges who say that the lanes are busier than normal with people learning how to shoot. "Every time that door opens, we're seeing new faces," one range owner said.
Of course, we don't know where we're heading, only where we've come from this past, very ugly August. If that sounds like drivel, it's because nothing has been resolved. There are still two sides of a story, the echoes of their context, and the specter of violence.