Cameras, first aid: Canfield Green tenants brace for Brown decision

Canfield Green residents in Ferguson are ready to help one another if violence breaks out over Brown decision

A resident at the Canfield Green apartments where Michael Brown was fatally shot said the complex in Ferguson, Mo., was quiet Monday after news broke that a St. Louis County grand jury had reached a decision on whether to indict the officer who killed the unarmed 18-year-old.

“We’re on edge, but it’s just anticipation to see if we’re going to get justice,”  Kevin Seltzer said as he headed home. “We have fallout shelters just in case they start rioting. We have emergency kits just in case there’s injured, because we are expecting police not to respond, emergency personnel not to respond to our immediate area like they did last time. We can help each other if we have to.”

During the August protests, Seltzer said residents to relied on one another. They formed the Canfield Watchmen to patrol the complex and monitor police, eventually using body cameras from a national group called Copwatch to record their encounters. 

“They respect Canfield now because of Copwatch and what we’ve put forth to police our own neighborhood,” Seltzer said of police, “But outside of our neighborhood, it’s ridiculous, the level of disrespect. There’s a lot more work that needs to be done.”

Monday night, Seltzer said he plans to drive around the complex, offering rides to young men headed to nearby stores, a common excuse to take to the streets and possibly clash with police, he said.

“We did learn something,” Seltzer said of the summer protests. “We are not going to be victimized like last time.”

Romana Williams, a Copwatch volunteer, lives around the corner from Canfield Green and fears there will be unrest late Monday.

“You can’t really prepare,” said Williams, 63. “What we can do is be on the front lines with our cameras. People are angry. The residents are angry. They haven’t stopped being angry. It may have slowed down a bit, but they haven’t stopped.

"The police is just as scared as we are," she said. "They put on a uniform and a tough facade, but they are.”

Williams said she is frustrated that Officer Darren Wilson was not arrested in a neighborhood where she and others have been repeatedly ticketed for minor offenses. She never expected him to be charged; she sees the case as a “brotherhood” of police and prosecutors protecting their own.

“They are probably letting him go. I said that from the beginning. And it is a black and white issue. And it’s never going to change. People say yes, it will, yes, it will. When is it going to change?” Williams said.

Her 23-year-old grandson was jailed during the protests that followed Brown’s shooting, and he remains locked up. His peers will probably take to the streets Monday night, she said. And she doesn’t blame them.

“These young people are tired of seeing people just getting killed, not just by our own people but by police,” Williams said. “It will never change. We give them too much slack.”

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