Charlie Riedel / AP

Civic group: Ferguson grand jury will keep meeting Monday

Jury considers whether to indict policeman who killed unarmed teen Michael Brown; journalist covering protests arrested

Crews set up barricades around the building where a grand jury has been considering whether to indict the white police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, setting off weeks of sometimes-violent protests. Tension has been mounting for days in the St. Louis suburb, with the grand jury's decision widely expected this weekend — but that seemed increasingly unlikely as Sunday dawned.

Downtown STL Inc., a St. Louis civic group that promotes local businesses, told members in an email Saturday that the grand jury would reconvene Monday to continue deliberating whether charges are warranted against Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of Brown.

The email did not explain how the group obtained the information, and a spokeswoman declined comment. Ed Magee, a spokesman for St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, did not respond to several messages Saturday.

The Brown family's attorney, Ben Crump, said Saturday that he hadn't heard a decision had been reached and that prosecutors had promised to tell him when that happened.

Tension has been mounting in Ferguson and elsewhere in the St. Louis area, with many speculating that the grand jury's decision would be announced Sunday. That seemed increasingly unlikely, although there was a noticeable uptick in preparations.

At Shalom Church in nearby Florissant, the Rev. Freddy Clark alluded to the pending grand jury decision Sunday morning, telling the mostly black, interdenominational congregation that "justice will be served" whichever way the decision goes because God will take care of it.

"None of us are pleased about what happened," Clark said. "Whatever the verdict is, we have to understand that's the verdict."

There have been many protests in the months since Brown's death, including some that were violent. On Saturday, authorities set up barricades around the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, Missouri, which is where the grand jury has been meeting.

Barricades also went up in the shopping center parking lot on Feguson’s West Florissant Avenue, where police set up a makeshift command center in the immediate aftermath of Brown's death.

Steady rain put a damper on most of Saturday night's protests. About 40 mostly teenage demonstrators strode up and down a main street in Ferguson, waving upside-down U.S. flags and home-made placards and chanting, "We're young, we're strong, we're marching all night long,” "No justice, no peace" and "Mike Brown means we've got to fight back." Cars stopped and drivers honked, slowing traffic.

Other protesters gathered outside Ferguson police headquarters for a fourth straight night, while convoys of law enforcement vehicles patrolled after dark.

The FBI has sent nearly 100 additional agents to Ferguson to help law enforcement agencies, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the FBI plans.

Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, spoke to protesters through a bullhorn and urged people to be careful.

"Don't agitate them, and don't let them agitate y'all," she said. "I don't want nobody getting hurt. We're all willing to do something, but I don't want nobody getting hurt."

Later, several protesters gathered outside of Ferguson's police station, where they blocked South Florissant Avenue. Officers warned the crowd not to impede traffic, and the demonstrators moved to the sidewalk before eventually spilling back into the street. Two people were arrested for unlawful assembly, said St. Louis County Police spokesman Brian Schellman.

One of those arrested was journalist Trey Yingst, reporting for website news2share.com. The St. Louis County Police Department later tweeted that Yingst was arrested in the street in front of the station, which officers were trying to keep clear. Multiple witnesses, however, maintained that Yingst was on the sidewalk when an officer handcuffed him.

"I think he had the right to be on the sidewalk," said Alex Wroblewski, a photographer who saw and photographed Yingst's arrest. Wroblewski maintains Yingst was on the sidewalk. 

Wroblewski said the circumstances of Yingst's arrest were similar to the detention of Scott Olson, a Getty photographer handcuffed in August after refusing to move off a sidewalk. Ryan J. Reilly, a Huffington Post reporter, and Wesley Lowery, of the Washington Post, were also detained briefly during the summer protests and were released without charges. 

Reilly, again in Ferguson, also said Sunday that Yingst had not been in the street. 

"He was on the sidewalk," Reilly tweeted.

Yingst declined a request for comment from Al Jazeera. 

The Missouri branch of the American Civil Liberties Union issued a news release Sunday saying eyewitness accounts and video of the incident indicate that Yingst was doing his job as a reporter, and standing on a public sidewalk. 

“We are deeply troubled that the First Amendment rights of the media are still being violated in spite of the recent court order we secured against such action by the County of St. Louis,” said Jeffrey Mittman, the executive director ACLU of Missouri. 

Wroblewski said that what happened to Yingst undermines earlier promises from the police that detentions of journalists would not happen again. 

"I don’t think anything's changed since August,” he said. “Police don't understand there were orders not to arrest journalists."

A St. Louis County Police spokesman, Rick Eckhard, his department is "looking into the incident.”

“I have no answers to your questions at this time," he said. 

Eckhard said he could only confirm that the department sent the tweet about Yingst. 

The incident was part of the tension that was palpable throughout the area Sunday. Several businesses in Ferguson and Clayton have boarded up their windows, and some residents admitted to feeling anxious. Things were calm during the day on Saturday.

Jamie Freeman of Ferguson, a 38-year-old registered nurse and mother of four, said she was especially concerned since her 20-year-old son lives in the neighborhood where Brown was shot.

"I just hope it stays peaceful," Freeman said of protests that will follow the grand jury decision. "We all have human emotions, but there's a way to do things, and violence, you can't get peace from violence."

Al Jazeera and wire services. Wilson Dizard contributed to this report. 

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