Gov. Jay Nixon on Monday took the long-overdue action to order Missouri National Guard troops to Ferguson. They will try to help end the unrest and violence that followed peaceful protests in recent days over the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer.
The action “to help restore peace and order and to protect the citizens of Ferguson” followed Nixon’s declaration Saturday of a state of emergency in the St. Louis suburb and imposition of a late-night curfew enforced by the Missouri Highway Patrol. Violence Sunday night started three hours before the midnight curfew.
No curfew was to be in place Monday night, but authorities were expected to shut down some streets as the National Guard moves in.
Nixon was right to say Monday that people from outside Ferguson and the state were putting the community at risk. Having National Guard, police and the Highway Patrol in the city should help restore calm.
The community of 21,000 has been roiled by looting, vandalism, gunfire and clashes with police since the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
But during a visit on Sunday it was obvious from the boarded-up businesses that struggled to remain open, from people walking in neighborhoods and from those waiting at bus stops and shopping for groceries that Ferguson’s residents yearn for peace to return. They’re also right to demand transparency and independent investigations that the community and Brown family can trust.
A Sunday afternoon unity rally drew hundreds to the Greater Grace Church. Speakers — including the Rev. Al Sharpton, Bishop Larry Jones, Martin Luther King III, family attorney Benjamin Crump and Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson — urged residents not to let anger over Brown’s death lead to violence.
Johnson, put in charge of security in Ferguson by Nixon, was cheered when he said he’d protect people’s right to protest and Brown’s death would positively change how America views black men and boys.
Other good things at the rally included organizers registering people to vote and many young people in yellow T-shirts being introduced as Disciples of Justice. They will help patrol the streets of Ferguson. People left the church understanding that justice takes time and their peaceful vigilance is necessary.