How to Respond Well to the Michael Brown Grand Jury Announcement

JusticeSince Michael Brown was shot on August 9, his family, the Ferguson and greater St. Louis, Missouri communities, the nation, and the world over have watched events unfold with some mix of shock, sadness, and fear. The tension in the last few weeks here locally has been palpable, and concerned people on all sides of the issue have eagerly awaited a decision as to whether police officer Darren Wilson will be indicted. It appears the waiting is over, as sources report the grand jury has reached a decision and an announcement will come this evening. Whatever your beliefs about this tragedy, here are four things to bear in mind to help you and those around you respond well in the midst of unrest.

1. Pray. For the love of God, pray.

If you’ve somehow made it thus far observing all that has taken place without uttering some sacred and compassionate words to whatever God you believe in for the safety and fair treatment of all persons involved, please start now. Your opinion about who is right and who is wrong is irrelevant to the notion that many people – police, protestors, bystanders – are hurting.

2. Shut down negativity on social media.

The other day I had someone refer to me as a “douche with a mohawk” because I asked him not to continue using profane language on my Facebook wall on a post about police tactics used in Ferguson, MO. If you see this sort of thing going on, do your best to respond peaceably, and if that doesn’t work, block people from interacting in the discussion. I can appreciate a desire to correct people’s perceptions (my hairstyle is a pompadour, after all), but it isn’t going to happen today. Don’t fan the flames by responding in kind, and don’t repost their antics with a rant of your own. Just shut them down and go back to #1.

3. Don’t expect folks to just “get over it.”

The statement by the grand jury today regards whether or not it found sufficient evidence to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on charges ranging from manslaughter to murder. If he is indicted, many police and other citizens will be devastated, and are likely to believe that the grand jury is kowtowing to media and societal pressure rather than actual evidence. If he is not, many protestors and citizens will be devastated, and are likely to believe that the grand jury is slanting in the direction of systemic racism and institutional injustice.

So, don’t go around saying things like, “Well, the grand jury decided…why are people still upset?” This is the beginning, not the end, no matter what way the decision goes. Settle in, and go back to #1.

4. Monitor what you tell yourself.

If you’re scared, anxious, frustrated, etc., you are in good company – we all are, especially here in St. Louis, for a variety of reasons and to a variety of extents. To make matters worse, we live in an era of live social media streams and round-the-clock updates from television media outlets, some of which have more motives than fact-reporting. As a result, we are capable of being swept up into collective paranoia and fear-mongering.

In that light, watch what you confess to yourself. If your thinking is irrational, emotionally or spiritually toxic, or just plain old’ stinking thinking, choose to be mindful of the present moment, and spend some time around people who are voices of reason and hope who are speaking life to all sides. Oh…and when you’re done, go back to #1.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Tim 1:7


Header image courtesy of Pixabay, used under Creative Commons License.


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Author: Ryan Thomas Neace

Ryan Thomas Neace is a counselor, professor, husband, and daddy. Please contact him for counseling via skype or in-person at

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