FERGUSON, Mo. — If there’s a line between anticipation and fear, many found themselves balancing precariously on it Saturday in this St. Louis suburb ahead of a grand jury decision — expected to be announced any moment — on whether to indict a white police officer who shot an unarmed black teenager here on Aug. 9.
The plywood boards covering the windows of Roy Brown’s discount clothing store in downtown Ferguson went up two weeks ago in preparation for protests that he worries could turn violent if officer Darren Wilson is not indicted over the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown (no relation to Roy). Lawyers for the teen’s family say he was trying to surrender. Wilson’s supporters say the officer fired in self-defense after the young man scuffled with him.
The killing scraped a raw nerve in U.S. racial relations and triggered weeks of sometimes-violent protests in Ferguson, calling for Wilson’s arrest.
Roy Brown took most of boards back down this past Wednesday in hopes of attracting more business. But on Saturday he said they were going back up again. Like many in Ferguson, he just wants all the uncertainty to be over.
Officials have not given a date or time the grand jury decision will be announced. “Not knowing what’s going to happen, that’s what is making me tense,” Roy Brown said.
He said he supports the peaceful protests — but not the violence and looting that hit some businesses in the weeks following the death of the Ferguson teen.
Nearly 30 storefronts have been boarded up along a stretch of West Florissant Avenue, near where Michael Brown was shot, an area many called “Ground Zero” during the August protests. Ferguson Burger Bar is one of the few that still have sunlight shining through its windows. Owner Charles Davis said he won’t shutter them unless one is broken.
“I have faith in my God that everything is going to be okay,” Davis said, adding that he bought the restaurant the day before Michael Brown was killed. He said leaving the windows bare sends a positive message to the community.
“I’ve had people come by just to say thanks for not boarding up,” Davis said. “And McDonalds (located across the street) hasn’t boarded up yet, so why should I?”
Down the street, ribbons fastened to a chain-link fence flapped in the breeze in front of the burned-out skeleton of a QuickTrip convenience store that was torched by vandals on Aug. 10. Inscribed on the ribbons were messages of optimism and peace. “Praying for justice,” one read. “Be a believer,” read another.