It’s cold and windy in Ferguson as the sun sets Monday, and Linda Lipka, 50, a longtime Ferguson resident, is worried about the night ahead.
For months, Lipka has attended community meetings large and small, in part to prepare for the aftermath of the grand jury decision on whether to charge a white police officer in the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man. Lipka, who is white, had hoped to be a voice that could help bridge black-white racial tension in her community.
But tonight she is nervous -- about protests, about businesses, about all the residents who have armed themselves in the past weeks.
“We are all scared, we are all concerned, we are all determined to get through this as a community and stay as classy as we can and to not let the threats shake our confidence in each other," she said. "When this is all said and done, then I’ll be part of the rebuilding process.”
Lipka said police are better prepared than they were during the protests that immediately followed the shooting in August and relieved that the National Guard had been activated in advance.
Although Lipka has empathy for the protesters, “they’re saying these horrible things to the police officers who are protecting their right to do it.”
“I’ve seen this community through dark days and I know these can be dark as well. I just hope it will be OK," she said. "I don’t want anybody hurt -- I don’t want protesters hurt, I don’t want officers hurt.”
She thinks that those braving the cold weather will be committed to making their voices heard. She hopes that weeks of community meetings will lead to peaceful demonstrations.
Still, she said, “There are a lot more citizens in my community than have ever been armed in my life,” residents who bought guns ahead of the grand jury decision.
Then there are the businesses that stand to lose on the brink of the holiday shopping season.
“This could not come at a worse time," she said. "Our businesses are so close to broke, so close to done."
And she worries about the way people around town have lost faith in each other.
“I don’t like that concern everybody has in their mind now – do you still like me? Am I still your friend?” she said, “There’s some of us that refuse to let that change us. I look everyone in the eye and say hi. And I always did.”
Like many here, Lipka took to social media, calling for civility in a post on Facebook, speaking to protesters as a Ferguson resident, one of what she called the town’s “lost voices.”
“I'm not your enemy and my home and my town is not your war ground,” she wrote, “I (speaking for me, personally) want to hear you, want to understand, want to bring change with you that benefits our community. I want to see this happen and stand beside you but I don't want to be bullied, threatened or put in fear for my life or my residents."
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