An open records request has revealed that St. Louis area authorities had proposed stationing the Missouri National Guard in the Ferguson neighborhood where Michael Brown had been shot by a police officer. However, the Guard was not deployed to the most troubled spots because Governor Jay Nixon wanted to place police on the front lines during the announcement that Officer Darren Wilson would not be charged.
The Columbia Daily Tribune reported that residents, local officials and state legislators are concerned that Nixon did not readily deploy the Guard to areas that were identified as most likely to be vandalized. After the announcement, angry protesters looted stores and set fire to vehicles and businesses in those areas.
The planning of security started long before the grand jury decision was announced. It was the goal of officials to avoid violent demonstrations like the ones that had occurred after Brown was shot. The Guard sent the governor’s office a presentation on October 10 with an outline for a potential plan.
Noted in this plan was the concept that the Guard could be mobilized early as a means to prevent the situation from escalating. It also stated that 1,500 security forces could be set strategically in the St. Louis area on the day of the announcement.
On October 30, Nixon met with leaders from the Guard, local police and the Missouri State Highway Patrol to start planning security. It was the hope of the police that the Guard would provide protection at key government buildings. A patrol memo on November 13 said St. Louis County police wanted to utilize guardsman at the apartments near the area where Brown was shot. It also stated that the Guard’s protection at the Ferguson Police Department was being sought but that was declined.
Then on November 18, after several meetings and correspondence, an internal National Guard memo stated the initial proposal “does not appear to meet the Governor’s intent for initial National Guard use.” This translated into no Humvees, no Guard security at the apartments and no Guard and vehicles at traffic-control points.
According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, Nixon has since said he did not utilize the Guard in these area because he wanted to avoid a situation in which soldiers might point guns at U.S. citizens. He has noted that no one was killed in the November 24 riots, even though many buildings were burned and vandalized.
“I think when people look back on this, they will appreciate that we showed an incredible amount of discipline,” Nixon said last week.
Eventually, the guard was sent to the Ferguson areas that were burned and looted, but only after much of the damage had been done.