Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon activated the state’s National Guard on Monday to support local law enforcement “during any period of unrest,” which may follow a grand jury’s decision regarding the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer.
On Aug. 9, Michael Brown, 18, was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. In the hours that followed, tension flared immediately between angry protestors and heavily armed law enforcement, which resulted in hundreds of arrests.
Meanwhile, a grand jury has been reviewing evidence and listening to testimony since Aug. 20 and is expected to decide whether there is enough evidence to indict Wilson.
“As part of our ongoing efforts to plan and be prepared for any contingency, it is necessary to have these resources in place in advance of any announcement of the grand jury’s decision,” Nixon said. “These additional resources will support law enforcement’s efforts to maintain peace and protect those exercising their right to free speech.”
For months, evidence about the case has leaked from the grand jury, causing residents to question whether the case will go to trial. The Rev. Traci Blackmon, a pastor in the community, says she is mentally preparing for the decision, which will be announced this month, according to reports.
“My prayer is that it doesn’t come to a violent showdown,” Blackmon tells PEOPLE. “I am frustrated. I am tired. I worry about the safety of everyone. I pray we get through this without any blood in the streets.”
Since the protests quieted and residents await a decision, St. Louis police and county departments have spent thousands of hours giving their officers civil disobedience training, according to reports. St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson told reporters during a press conference last week that they’ve met with protest leaders, and neither side wants violence.
“St. Louis is not preparing for war,” Dotson said. “Our mission is to protect life, property and the constitutional rights of those who want their voices heard.”