September 11, 2014

Ferguson residents have claimed their political power, and it looks like they won't let go anytime soon. If I were those politicians, I'd start to recognize that the political landscape was changing in a big way:

City leaders in Ferguson confronted demands for reform from an angry crowd on Tuesday night at their first public meeting since the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer.

The shooting, which exposed an undercurrent of racial unrest in Ferguson and other nearby suburbs in mostly black communities of Missouri’s north St. Louis County, triggered nightly, sometimes violent protests. Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and sent in National Guard troops to try to quell the unrest as the world watched how the still uneasy race relations in the United States played out against the use of militarized police to stop demonstrations.

People had to pass through metal detectors and security guards to attend the council meeting, held at an area church. Some wore T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "Hands up, don't shoot," a phrase that has become a national rallying cry for activists protesting the death of 18-year-old Brown and other incidents of what they say are police abuse. Several witnesses of the shooting say Brown had raised his hands when the police officer, Darren Wilson, shot him.

[...] Wild applause rang out from the crowd as people addressing the council called on Mayor James Knowles III to step down and complained of ineffective leadership, police harassment and racial profiling, among other grievances. Several also said that Tom Jackson, the Ferguson police chief, must be fired. Many warned that civil unrest will continue and could expand if Wilson is not arrested.

"You've lost your authority to govern this community," said St. Louis activist John Chasnoff. "You're going to have to step aside peacefully if this community is going to heal."

In one particularly heated exchange, several people rushed toward the stage after the council refused to answer a question about whether Wilson remained on the city payroll. Security workers held the angry crowd back, and church leaders urged calm and helped persuade the people to return to their seats.

"We are not going back to business as usual. We are holding you accountable," 29-year-old Ashley Yates told the council.

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