By Ellen Wulfhorst and Daniel Wallis
FERGUSON, Mo. (Reuters) - Honking horns and banging a metal bucket, a small but growing group of protesters awaited Monday's grand jury decision, swarming the Ferguson Police Department and meeting briefly with the father of slain black teen Michael Brown.
Mike Brown Sr., whose unarmed son was killed by a white police officer on Aug. 9, slowed down in a car to chat with demonstrators after hearing that the secret panel had reached a decision on whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting.
Protester Byron Conley, father of a teen son, said he spoke with Brown about the pain of losing a child and "spending a holiday like Thanksgiving without your son. I could tell what he's going through."
In New York, civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton called a 9:15 p.m. press conference in Harlem, saying he would join the Brown family in Ferguson on Tuesday to again address the media.
Tensions have been mounting over the highly anticipated decision, which officials fear could touch off a repeat of last summer's violence and property destruction in the predominantly black suburb of 21,000 people.
At a makeshift memorial on the street where Brown was killed, a handful of people gathered on Monday night, some wearing masks in the cold evening where temperatures were predicted to dip to 26 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 3 Celsius).
"We are ready for war. We are ready for war. We will not let this sleep!" said a man wearing a "I Am Michael Brown" hoodie sweatshirt, who identified himself only as D. White, aged 30, and said he lived nearby.
Protests, largely non-violent, have been held regularly in the community, with some evidence of self-policing. In recent days, when a protester threw a water bottle or otherwise acted aggressively, the rest of the crowd screamed "Agitator! Agitator!" and pointed the person out to police.
"I hope we can do this in a peaceful way. I just don't want no one to look at our little town thinking we're a bunch of wild animals. We're really good people here," said Conley, 51, a black resident who works for a medical supply company.
"I'm not on Mike Brown's side and I'm not on Darren Wilson's side. I'm here for the residents and we just want our town back," said Conley.
A small but growing group of 20 protesters, mostly young men bundled against the chill in winter clothing, their faces covered by bandanas reminiscent of the ones worn last summer to shield against tear gas, banged a large metal wash bucket outside police headquarters. They broke sporadically to toss around a football near a parked car covered with painted exhortations including "Honk 4 Mike."
(Additional reporting by Adrees Latif in Ferguson, Sascha Brodsky in New York, Scott Malone in Boston; Writing by Barbara Goldberg and Eric Walsh)