FERGUSON, Mo. (KMOX) – He’s not expecting a repeat of last year’s riots, but St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says law enforcement will be ready for whatever happens on the first anniversary of the Michael Brown shooting.
Belmar tells KMOX he does not anticipate this coming weekend looking anything like last August or November, when protests evolved into riots that saw businesses looted and burned.
“We’ve spent too much time talking with community leaders, talking with protest leaders, talking with advocates everywhere for me to believe it’s going to spiral into something negative. I truly don’t believe it will,” he says.
However, Belmar says, authorities have an obligation to be prepared for everything. He says they will have all the necessary equipment at their disposal, but he hopes they won’t have to use it.
“We’re going to do everything we can to prevent that from having to happen, but that won’t be our choice,” Belmar says.
Brown was shot to death by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Canfield Drive last Aug. 9.
“I think the remembrance of Mr. Brown on the anniversary of his death is going to be very appropriate,” Belmar says. “I do think, unfortunately though, at times we’ve seen small parts of the protest community, or folks outside the protest community, who have caused legitimate acute problems. That’s what we really have to be prepared for.”
Among the events planned for the weekend are acts of civil disobedience. Belmar believes authorities are better equipped to handle those acts this time around.
“Those folks that are planning that, they’re not talking about burning buildings or looting or breaking glass or shooting or anything like that. We’ve had a lot of experience with this in the last year and I think we understand, as a law enforcement community and not just the county police department, how to react to that.”
Belmar says one big advantage this year will be the presence of interim Ferguson Police Chief Andre Anderson.
“Now we have that effective liaison in Ferguson that guys like me, my senior staff and the senior staff from the (Missouri) Highway Patrol can bounce things off of and say, ‘Chief, it’s your city, what would you like to see here?’
“It gives us the ability to have that true leader in Ferguson that we can depend on. Otherwise, it’s up to St. Louis County, the Highway Patrol and some of the select municipalities to handle this.”
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