As a Missorui grand jury prepares to announce whether it will indict a white police officer, Darren Wilson, in the August shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, groups across the country are already preparing their protests.
Some Wilson supporters have gone a step further, days ago announcing they had raised more than $3,000 to erect a billboard in "the heart of Florissant, the epicenter of the Mike Brown protests," reading "#PantsUPDontLoot." The IndieGoGo campaign was started Oct. 28 by Tennessee resident Don Alexander.
On Nov. 13, Alexander announced the campaign had exceeded its goal. According to Gawker, Alexander "was assisted by social media, including posters on St. Louis Coptalk, a commenting board for area police and their supporters."
The billboard's slogan is widely understood as a direct respone to "Hands Up, Don't Shoot," which became a rallying cry in the wake of Brown's death after witnesses said that Brown's arms were raised when he was shot. "#PantsUPDontLoot" was popularized following a piece in the National Review, published days after the shooting.
The weeks of protests and unrest that followed drew international attention, especially around the issue of the militarization of the Ferguson, Mo., police force. And while many protesters were peaceful, the area also saw nights of looting and violence.
While waiting on word of an indictment, some have braced for a return to those early days. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon activated the National Guard on Monday and declared a state of emergency.
Others are capitalizing on the moment's uncertainty: Earlier this month, a Missouri-based Klu Klux Klan chapter distributed fliers warning that the Ferguson protests had awakened a "sleeping giant."
"We will not sit by and allow you to harm our families, communities, property nor disrupt our daily lives. Your right to freedom of speech does not give you the right to terrorize citizens," the flier read. "We will use lethal force as provided under Missouri Law to defend ourselves.”
The group behind the billboard has more modest goals: Alexander said the plan is to keep the billboard up "as long as possible." He wrote, "If we come to an agreement with a company and can fund it for 3 months, 5 months, 7 months...we will."
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