FERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - Prosecutors made preparations to announce the eventual decision by a grand jury on whether to charge a white police officer who shot dead an unarmed black teenager and some local schools said on Friday they would close next week in anticipation of unrest.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder urged police to show restraint in handling any protests that flare after the grand jury’s decision as tensions simmered in Ferguson, Missouri, over a case that has become a flashpoint for U.S. race relations.
The grand jury deciding whether to indict Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, 18, in the St. Louis suburb met behind closed doors.
The St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said it was preparing for a news conference, the first time it has disclosed such plans, but added that it had no date or time for the decision announcement. Officials have said a decision is expected before the end of the month.
The nearby Jennings School District said it would close on Monday and Tuesday due to the possibility of unrest in neighboring Ferguson. The district was already scheduled to be closed the rest of the week for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.
The Ferguson-Florrisant school district is planning to have its schools open on Monday and Tuesday.
The FBI has sent 100 agents to the St. Louis area to help with any problems that could arise after the grand jury decision, ABC News reported. FBI officials were not immediately available for comment.
Police in riot gear arrested three people in overnight protests that led to scuffles, police said, adding one demonstrator was doused with pepper spray for resisting arrest.
Activists held a news conference at a church in Ferguson on Friday to announce the deployment of more than 50 so-called Disciples of Justice who will try to keep a lid on any trouble at protests.
“We want the community to know we’ve got an extra set of eyes and ears in the midst of the demonstrations,” said Anthony Gray, an attorney for Brown’s family.
Hundreds of civil rights lawyers from across America were descending on Ferguson to monitor the possible protests.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency and called in National Guard troops to back up local police in anticipation of protests. Groups from across the country have said they would take to the streets again in large numbers if charges are not brought.
Holder said the Justice Department was providing new guidance to law-enforcement authorities about how to maintain public safety while still safeguarding the free-speech rights of protesters.
“The Justice Department encourages law enforcement officials, in every jurisdiction, to work with the communities they serve to minimize needless confrontation,” Holder said in a video address released by the Justice department.
Lawyers for Brown’s family say he was trying to surrender when the officer shot him. Wilson’s supporters say he shot Brown in self-defense.
Additional reporting by Julia Edwards and Emily Stephenson in Washington and David Bailey in Minneapolis; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Will Dunham and Mohammad Zargham