FERGUSON, United States (AFP) -The father of a black teenager killed by police in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson sought to ease tensions Saturday as protesters stepped up calls for a grand jury to indict the white officer responsible.
The predominantly African American community has been on edge over the jury’s expected decision.
US President Barack Obama has called for calm, Missouri’s governor declared a state of emergency and the FBI deployed extra personnel.
But contrary to days of speculation, US media reported that no decision would come this weekend, with the jury only expected to reconvene on Monday at the earliest.
The jury can either indict police officer Darren Wilson, meaning he could face trial for the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9, or determine there is no case for him to answer. Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., and his wife Cal distributed Thanksgiving turkeys in the neighbourhood the killing sparked weeks of protests, some of them violent.
“I feel like I just had to do this,” Brown Sr told AFP, wearing a T-shirt with a picture of his son on the front and the caption, “Gone to Soon.”
Visibly upset, Brown Sr embraced journalists and community members, but stopped short of commenting on the grand jury decision that has put Ferguson on edge.
“Everyone is suffering over this. This is painful for everyone, especially this community. I just feel this was needed so I came to do that, to make sure that people have a nice Thanksgiving,” he said.
Earlier in the week, he appealed for restraint in a somber video plea. “Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer,” he said.
His son’s killing inflamed racial tensions in mostly black St Louis suburb of 21,000 with an overwhelmingly white police force and town government.
Cal, the dead teenager’s stepmom, said they gave out more than 60 turkeys ahead of Thanksgiving next week, some bought by the family and the rest donated.
“Hopefully, we’ll have big things come out of this,” she told AFP, adding the family would particularly miss Michael during the holiday season.