Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) appealed for peace on Monday, hours before the expected announcement of a grand jury's decision whether to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for shooting unarmed teenager Michael Brown to death.
Nixon said he and other elected officials were asking that "regardless of the decision, people on all sides show tolerance, mutual respect and restraint."
"Together we are all focused on making sure the necessary resources are at hand to protect lives, protect property, and protect free speech," he said. Nixon and the officials he appeared with said they had not been told the grand jury's decision.
In a nod to the intense feelings the case has has generated, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay predicted that "whatever is announced this evening, some people are going to be angry and frustrated."
"Like last night, we will give you leeway to occupy public safety and we will listen to your grievances, but turning violent or damaging property will not be tolerated," said Slay.
Nixon said state and local law enforcement are working together to "make sure the best, most experienced officers are on the street." He said officials, including state Director of Public Safety Dan Isom, are in "ongoing discussions" with protest leaders to ensure peace.
Nixon held the press conference with Slay to discuss preparations for protests that may follow the grand jury's conclusion. Protests in the first days after Brown's death erupted into the burning of one building, nightly mass arrests and intense confrontations with law enforcement.
The governor declared a pre-emptive state of emergency on Nov. 17 and activated the Missouri National Guard. Some observers said Nixon has struggled to appear in control of authorities' response to outrage over Brown's death. Asked by The Huffington Post last week whether the buck ultimately stopped with him when it came to policing any protests, Nixon was unable to deliver a straight answer.