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Governor Drops State Of Emergency In Ferguson, Which Curbs His Powers

Stephanie Lecci

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has lifted the state of emergency that he imposed several weeks ago in Ferguson – thus ending his power to replace St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch as the head of the local investigation into the police shooting that set off the community’s unrest.

Nixon’s announcement came shortly before a group gathered outside McCulloch's office in Clayton. The 40-some community and social justice groups that comprise the newly formed Don’t Shoot Coalition were demanding the governor replace McCulloch with a special prosecutor.

One of the coalition leaders Montague Simmons said that while Nixon no longer has the power to remove the prosecutor, Nixon can still pressure McCulloch to recuse himself. Simmons said McCulloch's record suggests he cannot be impartial and has lost the trust of the community.

The group is also calling for an expanded federal investigation into civil rights violations by police; an end to racial profiling; increased diversity on police forces; and civilian review boards to oversee investigations of excessive force by police.

Back to a normal state

Nixon said in his declaration that the emergency decree was no longer needed since peace appears to have been restored. The governor had earlier removed the National Guard, and now appears to be ready to do the same with the state Highway Patrol, which has overseen law enforcement in Ferguson for weeks.

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Credit File photo | Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio
Unified command headquarters was set up under the state of emergency.

Nixon had imposed the state of emergency on Aug. 16.

“Over the past week, we’ve seen students getting back to school, businesses reopening their doors and folks getting back to their normal routines,” the governor said in a statement. “This progress is a testament to the efforts of community and faith leaders, working alongside state and local law enforcement officers, to bring peace to the streets of Ferguson and much-needed stability to its citizens.”

State Sen. JamilahNasheed, D-St. Louis, had gotten advance word of Nixon’s action and made clear Wednesday that she is furious. Nasheed collected tens of thousands of signatures from people seeking McCulloch’s ouster.

Nixon, she said, now has tossed the matter back to McCulloch. “What they’re doing is playing ping pong on the back of a dead man,” she said, referring to teenager Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by a Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9.

Nasheed, who is a Don't Shoot Coalition supporter, said that voters may take their own frustrations out on Democrat and nominee for St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, whose endorsement by McCulloch during the primary could make him a political casualty in November. 

Nixon, while not close to McCulloch, had been careful during a news conference Tuesday to make clear that he had confidence in McCulloch’s ability to do his job. “He has been a prosecutor for a lot of years,” the governor said, adding that McCulloch also had a strong team of lawyers around him.

Nixon’s comments, while nuanced, were arguably his strongest public comments since the controversy broke several weeks ago. The governor also has maintained that there are legal questions as to whether he really could replace the prosecutor since McCulloch was elected to his office and has special constitutional protections as a result.

Here is Nixon’s official removal of the state of emergency:

WHEREAS, Executive Order 14-08 was issued on August 16, 2014, establishing a state of emergency due to civil unrest occurring in the City of Ferguson, Missouri; and

WHEREAS, under Executive Order 14-08, state and local law enforcement agencies established a unified command to protect the citizens’ right to peacefully assemble and protest while providing security for the citizens and businesses of the City of Ferguson; and

WHEREAS, Executive Order 14-09 was issued on August 18, 2014, activating the Missouri National Guard for the limited mission of providing security at the unified command center; and

WHEREAS, the soldiers of the Missouri National Guard were released on August 26, 2014, and the unified command center was deactivated on August 27, 2014.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JEREMIAH W. (JAY) NIXON, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the State of Missouri, including Chapter 44, RSMo, do hereby terminate Executive Order 14-08, including the state of emergency established therein, and terminate Executive Order 14 09.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the Great Seal of the State of Missouri, in the City of Jefferson, on this 3rd day of September, 2014.

Stephanie Lecci contributed to this report.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.