St. Louis mayor discusses role of Nat. Guard, coalitions' propos - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

St. Louis mayor discusses role of Nat. Guard, coalitions' proposed rules in letter to aldermen

(Source: KXLN/MGNOnline) (Source: KXLN/MGNOnline)

In a letter to the Board of Alderman, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay outlined the role of the National Guard in Ferguson and a list of 19 rules proposed by a coalition.

Slay said the role of the guard would not be to "disrupt, minimize, or in anyway impede our constituents' constitutionally protected right to assemble and speak freely."

He said the focus would be on protecting property, keeping people safe and safeguarding the constitutional rights in the City of St. Louis.

Slay said they're going to request that 400 members of the guard be deployed in the city and split up over two, 12-hour shifts.

He said they will not, unless something unforeseen happens, post them where there are organized protests. Instead, they will use them to prevent random acts of violence, property destruction, looting or other criminal activity away from the demonstrations.

He went on to say they will post guardsmen along with police officers at 45 locations throughout the city. This is to keep all citizens and their homes and businesses safe, including those in neighborhoods nowhere near where the protests are.

Slay said 50 individual organizations have been meeting under two banners, Hands Up and Don't Shoot. He said two weeks ago, they put forward what they call 19 proposed rules of engagement.

Slay said he considers that a military term.

"Because this is not war, I am calling them the proposed rules of conduct," Slay said in the letter.

Slay said Chief Dotson, St. Louis County Chief Jon Belmar, Captain Ron Johnson and the Missouri Public Safety Director Dan Isom have been meeting and are continuing to meet with the coalition to find common ground.

"During the first meeting, we agreed to more than half of the 19 proposed rules," Slay said. "In the second meeting, the two sides agreed to create clear lines of communication during the protests to help police keep the protestors safe, to reduce the chances of misunderstandings, and where possible to give leeway to the protestors to occupy spaces to be disruptive, but not violent."

Slay said some of the proposed rules, like giving the demonstrators 48 hours advanced warning that the decision is coming, are out of they control.

Still others, he said, will be honored on a case-by-case basis, like allowing the protesters to occupy public spaces.

He went on to say they will honor safe houses and consider churches to be sanctuaries, except in extremely rare circumstances.

When it comes to protective gear, Slay said they have two very important principles to balance.

"On the one hand, we do not want to appear to militarize our response to the demonstrations and want to do everything we can to de-escalate," he said. "So, our officers will start by wearing their normal uniforms."

Slay said on the other hand, they want to keep everyone safe, including police officers.

"If our officers put on their personal protective gear, it is not to intimidate peaceful protesters," he said. "It is for the sole purpose of keeping everyone safe."

In closing, Slay explained his expectations and said they will continue to communicate directly with organizers of the various groups in the coalitions.

"I do expect that some of the demonstrations will be peaceful and disruptive," he said. "I do expect widespread civil disobedience and subsequent arrests for low level municipal violations. I do expect both police and the vast majority of demonstrators will be non violent. I do expect our state, our region and our city to make substantial change going forward."

Slay said they will get through this better and stronger.

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