POLITICS

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon Forms Commission To Look At Ferguson Unrest

FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2014 file photo Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon speaks at a news conference in Ferguson, Mo., dealing with th
FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2014 file photo Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon speaks at a news conference in Ferguson, Mo., dealing with the aftermath of the police shooting of Michael Brown. Nixon was flying out of St. Louis around noon on Aug. 9, unaware that at that very moment a white policeman was fatally shooting an unarmed black 18-year-old just a couple of miles from where he had delivered a commencement speech. Nixon couldn’t have foreseen what was about to unfold over the coming days, but questions have been raised about whether he could have responded faster. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

By Carey Gillam

Oct 21 (Reuters) - Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said Tuesday he was setting up a special commission to examine the social and economic conditions in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson that have fed ongoing race-related protests following the police killing of an unarmed black teenager in August.

The St. Louis area has seen demonstrations almost daily since the Aug. 9 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson. Thousands of people have participated in protests that at times have turned violent and at one point prompted the governor to call out the National Guard.

"Our streets cannot be battlefields," Nixon said in a press conference announcing the formation of the commission. "If we do not act, and act now, the damage could be severe and long-lasting."

The commission will be made up of leaders from business, education, public safety and religious communities as well as "ordinary citizens," Nixon said. Its task will be to examine concerns that include poverty, education, governance and law enforcement, and offer recommendations for making the region "a stronger, fairer place for everyone to live," Nixon said.

The commission is not charged with delving into Brown's death, Nixon said. That responsibility remains with county prosecutors and federal officials looking into the case, he said.

The announcement comes a day after a Missouri State Senator Jamilah Nasheed was arrested amid a protest outside the Ferguson police department and after other protesters staged a demonstration against police brutality outside the St. Louis County prosecutor's office.

A grand jury has been hearing evidence and considering charges against Wilson, who has not spoken publicly about the matter. Prosecutors have said a decision could come sometime in the next few weeks. Protesters want Wilson arrested immediately and have called for the appointment of a special prosecutor.

Police officers involved in shootings on the job are rarely charged with crimes in the St. Louis area and officials have said they fear violent protests will erupt anew if the grand jury decides not to bring charges.

"This is a defining moment that will determine whether this place will be known as a region marred by racial division and unrest, or a region that pulled together to rise above and heal," Nixon said at the press conference. (Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Missouri; Editing by Bill Trott and Eric Walsh)

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