Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday encouraged law enforcement officers to do all they can to avoid confrontation with protestors, just hours or days before a grand jury in Missouri is expected to announce whether it will charge a cop for the death of a black teenager.
Ferguson, Missouri has been the site of several violent protests over the last several months, which prompted the Justice Department to try to ease tensions there. Many suspect the officer won't be charged, after new evidence was presented showing that 18-year-old Michael Brown fought with Office Darren Wilson for control of Wilson's gun.
Holder's video message calls on both police and protestors to respect each other as the decision draws near. In it, Holder cites new guidance from the Justice Department on how police can "work with the communities they serve to minimize needless confrontation."
"It is vital to engage in planning and preparation, from evaluating protocols and training to choosing the appropriate equipment and uniforms," he said. "This is the hard work that is necessary to preserve the peace and maintain the public trust at all times — particularly in moments of heightened community tension."
Holder also asked protestors to ensure their actions are peaceful.
"Peaceful protest has been a hallmark, and a legacy, of past movements for change, from patriotic women who demanded access to the franchise, to the civil rights pioneers who marched for equal rights and equal justice," he said. "Americans exercising their First Amendment right to free assembly should look to those examples as they work to bring about real and lasting change for themselves and for future generations."