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Nixon responds to questions on Ferguson unrest

Governor Nixon addressed the media Wednesday at the Capitol hours before a legislative hearing on events and decisions made in Ferguson. ABC 17 was also at the evening hearing with the Joint Committee on Government Accountability, where Ferguson Mayor James Knowles testified in front of the crowd.

Wednesday afternoon, Nixon also announced the head of the Missouri Highway Patrol, Colonel Ron Replogle, is retiring after 31 years on March 1.

Nixon is asking Major Bret Johnson to take over Highway Patrol. His Senate confirmation will take place in March.

The Governor also talked about how the Highway Patrol helped protect lives in Ferguson.

The absence of the National Guard in Ferguson until nearly 2:00 a.m. on November 24 was a topic brought up Wednesday.

Governor Nixon maintained the plan executed in Ferguson was the right one.

Nixon did bring up that many are questioning his actions, but he repeatedly said protecting lives and free speech were the two most important things.

Although no lives were lost in the post-verdict unrest, dozens of buildings and small businesses were set on fire. Many of them burned to the ground before Nixon activated the National Guard. That was at about 1:30 that morning.

There were several questions about why the Guard wasn’t in Ferguson right after the grand jury announced its decision.

The Governor said the Guard was staged at nearby command posts as promised.

However, the mayor of Ferguson has repeatedly said that he and other local leaders were told the Guard would be in Ferguson.

The Governor said no one, including those at the federal level, changed his mind or influenced his decision. He said he believes his plan was the right one.

“We didn’t have any other deaths or shootings, but unfortunately, as I said before there was looting and property destruction, but as I said before, it’s important that we put lives before property, and that’s what we did,” said Nixon.

Nixon said it’s untrue when people say the Guard was not there. He said the Guard was intentionally on the sidelines so local and state law enforcement could do their jobs. He said the Guard was there to protect, rather than to police.

“American soldiers pointing their weapons American citizens that are unarmed is not a good thing. These folks are trained to kill,” said Nixon.

While several aspects of Ferguson could constitute their own legislative committees, this group’s focus is narrow: what happened on November 24.

In December, during the Ferguson Commission’s first meeting, Missouri Sen. Jamilah Nasheed said some of the information they may subpoena could be semi-criminal.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said he was originally told the National Guard would be in Ferguson, but was told weeks later they would not be there the night the grand jury decision came down.

According to Knowles, there was no explanation for the change of plan. Knowles said he contacted more than five lawmakers to try to get in contact with the Governor’s office. He said to his knowledge, no one was able to reach the Governor’s office, and hasn’t talked to Governor Nixon since September.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed said in response, “That was a failed operation by the Governor.”

Senator Chapelle Nadal asked who came up with the idea for the curfew that was imposed in Ferguson. Knowles said the Governor brought it up
at a meeting, but the office already decided.

Nadal said she is trying to understand why police used tear gas on peaceful protesters. Knowles said there was a concern for officer safety, and said tactical policing decisions should come from police.

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