Members of Congress implored residents in Ferguson, Missouri, to protest peacefully as the city grapples with news that a federal grand jury will not indict Darren Wilson, a white policeman who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, in August.
Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt encouraged protesters to "exercise their free speech alongside the rights of people to live peacefully and safely in their communities." Blunt reiterated that Brown's death was a tragedy.
"Law enforcement officials have been candid in identifying ways officers could have handled the situation in Ferguson better, and I trust those recommendations will be helpful as we continue to count on them to protect us," Blunt said in a statement.
Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill warned that while many residents would be upset by the grand jury's decision, she reminded people that the ruling was a "result of a deliberate legal process that's being independently checked by Attorney General Eric Holder."
"While we await the conclusion of that independent investigation—and continue working together for solutions to systemic issues highlighted by this tragedy—I'm praying that the good people of St. Louis and local law enforcement will remain peaceful and respectful of one another," McCaskill said in a statement.
Rep. Marcia Fudge, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, called the decision a "miscarriage of justice."
"It is a slap in the face to Americans nationwide who continue to hope and believe that justice will prevail," Fudge, an Ohio Democrat, said in a statement."This decision seems to underscore an unwritten rule that Black lives hold no value; that you may kill Black men in this country without consequences or repercussions. This is a frightening narrative for every parent and guardian of Black and brown children, and another setback for race relations in America."
Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights luminary, urged protesters on Twitter to "not succumb to the temptations of violence."
I know this hard. I know this is difficult. Do not succumb to the temptations of violence. There is a more powerful way. #FergusonDecision— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) November 25, 2014
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon also urged residents to "show tolerance, mutual respect, and restraint" after the decision. He reminded residents in a statement after the grand jury's decision was read that "the world is watching."
Members of the National Guard have been dispatched in case peaceful protests escalate into violent ones in the St. Louis suburb. Business owners boarded up shops as authorities braced for the community's reaction.
Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat, said the decision troubled him.
Incredibly disappointed in Michael Brown no bill, but not surprised. Worried for my sons.— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) November 25, 2014
Before the announcement, Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver unleashed his thoughts on how the people of Ferguson should react to the news of the indictment:
Remember, young people of #Ferguson, your pain is not wrong. Your feelings are valid. We understand you’re hurt.— Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (@repcleaver) November 25, 2014
We hear you. And we hurt with you. All decent Americans, black, white, brown, should also feel the pain of this family, this community.— Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (@repcleaver) November 25, 2014
African-Americans have long believed that police resort to force incautiously when dealing with their young men.— Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (@repcleaver) November 25, 2014
We have not merely witnessed the effects of a warped sense of law & order, enforced with unbridled & unpredictable power. We wear the scars.— Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (@repcleaver) November 25, 2014
Tonight, many in #Ferguson will no doubt express their pain and angst publicly. They will raise their hands saying, hands up, don’t shoot.— Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (@repcleaver) November 25, 2014
They will raise their voices. They will chant. They will preach. They will cry.— Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (@repcleaver) November 25, 2014
We have heard, with sympathetic ears, the frustrations and fears of young people. They have told us something must be done.— Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (@repcleaver) November 25, 2014
We wholeheartedly agree. Let us memorialize, but let us also mobilize. Let us change #Ferguson so that the entire nation would take note.— Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (@repcleaver) November 25, 2014
If they do not hear our cries in the street, let them hear us in the voting booth.— Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (@repcleaver) November 25, 2014
This, however, is not the work of a moment but of a movement, and it will take a coalition, not a confrontation.— Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (@repcleaver) November 25, 2014
This fight for justice, in #Ferguson and all over, demands far more firmness of purpose than a fight in the street.— Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (@repcleaver) November 25, 2014
Far from Washington, however, it was unclear if protests would stay peaceful through the night.
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