ACLU urges police to respect first amendment rights in Ferguson
ST. LOUIS - The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri sent a letter about protecting first amendment rights to St. Louis County and state officials regarding protests in Ferguson.
The letter was sent to officials throughout the state including Governor Jay Nixon, Attorney General Chris Koster, Col. Ronald Replogle, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles, and Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson.
"We understand that there is a difference between exercising one's First Amendment right to assemble and breaking the law. Law enforcement agencies must recognize, however, that the Constitution firmly protects protests even when - and especially when - they stir anger, question preconceptions, challenge government policy, and induce dissatisfaction with the status quo. Speech, especially speech during times of unrest and public crisis can - at times - be loud, raucous, and even occasionally frightening," said Jeffrey A. Mittman, Executive Director of American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Foundation, in the letter.
The grand jury's decision on whether or not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown is expected to come soon. More than a 1,000 area officers have reportedly undergone 5,000 hours of training to handle protests. Specific details were not given about the training.
Governor Nixon addressed the city of Ferguson on Tuesday striking a zero-tolerance stance on violence.
"Citizens should be able to express themselves peacefully without being threatened by people expressing violence and disorder," Nixon said in reference to the vandalism that followed the Aug. 9 shooting of Brown. "That ugliness is not representative of Missouri and it cannot be repeated."
"These measures are not being taken because we believe violence will occur but because we have a responsibility to plan for any contingency. Violence will not be tolerated. Residents and businesses of this region will be protected."
The entire ACLU letter can be found here.