Ferguson Protesters Demand Justice at Council Meeting
Activists use civil disobedience to call for Darren Wilson's arrest
Ferguson activists disrupted a stunned city council meeting in St. Louis on Tuesday evening to demand an end to the continued delays of justice in the volatile aftermath of Michael Brown's death.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the council listened for two hours as protesters raged against police and city leaders' inaction after Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot to death by Officer Darren Wilson on August 9. Wilson remains free on administrative leave even as the FBI launches a civil rights investigation into the shooting.
One speaker gave the council a powerful warning for the future of the community if police and courts fail to bring Wilson to justice: "If Darren Wilson gets off, you all better bring every army you all have got. 'Cause it’s going down."
The demonstrators called for Wilson's immediate arrest, the resignations of County Police Chief Jon Belmar and Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson, accountability from legislative officials, and the removal of controversial county prosecutor Robert McCulloch from the case.
McCulloch's history shows a bias in favor of police officers and a pattern of racist prosecution. In 2001, when two white officers shot and killed two unarmed black men sitting in their car in a restaurant parking lot, McCulloch refused to charge them. He said of the deceased men, "These guys were bums."
McCulloch has support from city officials; he was a key ally to Councilman Steve Stenger, currently running for county executive, during a previous political race. Activists on Tuesday called on Stenger to demand that his "BFF" McCulloch resign by noon Wednesday.
Stenger refused, telling KMOX news Wednesday, "I am standing by Bob McCulloch. I’ve been called upon to denounce him by noon today and I did not denounce him and I don’t intend to denounce him."
But protesters made their message clear to Stenger on Tuesday—that his dismissal of their demands would be remembered in the ballot box.
"We will do everything in our power on election day because we see you sitting there with a smug look on your face," one speaker told the councilman. "We will have our say in November when we go to vote."
Their promise was matched by the collective voice of more than 30 elected officials in St. Louis County who joined the Fannie Lou Hamer Democratic Coalition, a new political organization that will address the "disparate treatment and disrespect" of African Americans in the area.
"Steve Stenger does not have the best interests of our community," said Berkeley Mayor Theodore Hoskins at a press conference Wednesday morning.
"We are all serving notice that we are not going to support candidates just because they have an insignia of a donkey behind their name," added county Chairwoman Hazel Erby, who is also the council's single black member. Her impassioned speech during a previous meeting between activists and city leaders was documented reverently by those in attendance.
The disruption was raucous as protesters refused to be silenced by a bureaucratic reception. The Post-Dispatch writes:
Erby twice threatened to end the meeting prematurely if the demonstrators — who interrupted speakers, including eight residents appealing to the council on zoning and other matters — didn’t cease.
Undeterred, the audience loudly cheered speakers who likened Wilson and other law enforcement officials to “war criminals,” compared St. Louis County government to the Ku Klux Klan and drew analogies between the St. Louis region and Jim Crow laws.
Protesters chanted, "No justice, no peace!" and "Hands up, don't shoot!" among other slogans that have become the signature expressions in the wake of Brown's death, as activists continue to maintain vigilance with marches and rallies.
The meeting was followed by a march through downtown Clayton. Before leaving the meeting, however, activist Anthony Shahid gathered the protesters into the hallway to hold a 4-1/2 minute of silence in the hallway to honor the 4-1/2 hours that Brown's body lay in the street after he was killed.