FERGUSON, MO (KPLR) - Members of a group calling itself the “Don’t Shoot Coalition” are calling for dialogue between the community organizations and protesters they represent, and law enforcement. They believe it’s the only hope for preventing violence when a grand jury decision comes in the case of Officer Darren Wilson.
The group addressed reporters Wednesday, striking both consolatory and defiant tones at various points in their news conference.
They say they have had meetings with both the prosecutor’s office and police regarding early notice of a pending decision, something both those offices confirm. They’ve also spoken with police about a set of “rules of engagement” they want utilized when, they believe inevitably, people pour into the streets no matter what the decision on Officer Wilson.
“Our intent is to help deescalate violence but not to deescalate action,” attorney Denise Lieberman said.
The rules of engagement include nineteen points. Among them, prioritizing the sanctity of human life, and a call for respect among the parties involved. More specific items could prove more contentious, however. They ask that riot gear be worn by police only as a “last resort” and that, “police be instructed to be tolerant of more minor lawbreaking (such as thrown water bottles).”
In a statement, St. Louis County Police only addressed a portion of the proposal.
“The St. Louis County Police Department endorses the statement from the Don’t Shoot Coalition regarding the sanctity and preservation of human life,” the email from Sgt. Brian Schellman reads. “To that end, and in the spirit of building communications, members of the Unified Command have met with the coalition to define common goals.”
But while the group says they endorse non-violent action, they are quick to point a finger at police for any violence that may come.
“Be it violent or non-violent protests, the reasons for the protests are the same,” Michael McPhearson of the Veterans for Peace said, “community tensions that must be addressed.”
Protester Damon Davis added, “There are some in the community that do not share our view of nonviolent protest. Make no mistake this climate of fear, confusion, anger and distrust, was created and nurtured by law enforcement. If violence occurs, the bulk of the blame falls on them.”
Police did not comment on those allegations or charges by Montague Simmons of the Organization for Black Struggle that they are, “preparing to wage war as we speak on those they’ve been sworn to protect.”
But Simmons says there can be a level of decorum in whatever happens.
“We are engaged again in peaceful, peaceful nonviolent civil disobedience. Which means we do not obey. What we want is an engagement of respect. “