Ferguson video shows witness

  • By By JESSE J. HOLLAND
  • Saturday, September 13, 2014 8:39pm
  • News

FERGUSON, Mo. — A few miles from the street where Michael Brown died is the grave of Dred Scott, a slave who went to the Supreme Court and tried, unsuccessfully, to be recognized as a free American citizen.

One hundred and fifty-seven years later, a white police officer’s fatal shooting of Brown — unarmed, black and 18 years old — raises fresh questions about the extent to which blacks in suburban towns are regarded as full partners by the officials and law enforcers elected largely by and responsive to small segments of the population.

Political participation is increasing on the national level for blacks and Hispanics. On the local level, voting continues to be struggle, as it is in this St. Louis suburb.

In the most recent city election in April, only 1,484 of Ferguson’s 12,096 registered voters cast ballots, easily re-electing the mayor. Next year voters can weigh in again on their municipal government through city council elections.

Nationally, only 1 in 4 four voters turns out for mayoral elections in the largest cities, according to a 2013 study of 340 mayoral elections in 144 cities from 1996 to 2012 by Thomas M. Holbrook and Aaron C. Weinschenk of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin Green Bay.

Missouri does not ask about race or ethnicity on its voter registration forms. But roughly two-thirds of Ferguson’s residents are black. The police force is predominantly white. Five of Ferguson’s six city council members are white, as is the mayor. The grand jury investigating the Brown case has six white men, three white women, two black women and one black man.

Lifelong Ferguson resident Andre Adams, 29, a barber at Infiniti Styles Barbering Salon, said he votes whenever he can. Young people in Ferguson must be convinced that they should do the same, Adams said, or “we’re just going to fall victim to what’s going on now.”

“We need more of our young people, as well as our old people to come out here and vote, to get what’s going on, to listen in to the town hall meetings and all,” Adams said. “If we could get them, something could actually change.”

There are signs that residents are ready to reverse years of civic apathy.

At the city council’s Sept. 9 meeting, the first since Brown was killed, resident after resident pledged to vote Mayor James Knowles and council members out of office, sharply rejecting earlier assertions by Knowles that there was no “racial divide” in Ferguson.

Attention to minority participation in civic life has increased since Aug. 9, when Brown was shot multiple times by Officer Darren Wilson, and died in the street. Protests followed, sometimes marred by rioting and looting that was met with tear gas and rubber-coated bullets from police.

The city largely has been calm since Brown’s Aug. 25 funeral, except for demonstration Wednesday when protesters were arrested while trying to shut down traffic on Interstate 70.

Brown’s family has appealed for people to get involved. “Show up at the voting booths. Let your voices be heard, and let everyone know that we have had enough of all of this,” said Eric Davis, one of Brown’s cousins, at the funeral.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, whose voter registration efforts helped bring about the election of the first black mayor of Chicago in 1983, spent time in Ferguson trying to register people to vote following Brown’s death. Jackson, who ran for the White House in 1984 and 1988 and says his campaigns were responsible for registering 3 million new voters, said minority voters had to be educated on how the nominating process works so they could become part of it.

Jackson said he tried to explain to Ferguson residents why it matters to participate in elections at all levels.

“People didn’t realize that they couldn’t be on a grand jury if they didn’t vote,” Jackson said. “They didn’t realize that by voting for mayor, they could have a say on who the police chief was, who makes up the police force. People didn’t know they could vote in and out of office the judges that hear these kind of cases.”

Rita Heard Days, director of elections in St. Louis County, said her office has seen a noticeable increase in voter registration cards from Ferguson and surrounding areas since Brown’s death.

“We’ve got a lot of people who have contacted us from that area wanting to have voter registration drives,” she said.

Increased local participation would match growing minority participation in national and state level politics.

In presidential election years, the percentage of black voters eclipsed the percentage of whites for the first time in 2012, when 66.2 percent of blacks voted, compared with 64.1 percent of non-Hispanics whites and about 48 percent of Hispanics and Asians.

Blacks and non-white Hispanics are the only groups to have increased their participation in midterm elections, voting at 38.6 percent and 19.3 percent, respectively, in the 2006 congressional and statewide elections, and at 40.7 percent and 20.5 percent, respectively, in 2010.

Follow Jesse J. Holland on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jessejholland

More in News

A moose is photographed in Kalifornsky, Alaska, in July 2020. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Illegal moose harvest down from past 5 years

The large majority of moose this year were harvested from North and South Kasilof River areas.

Renee Behymer and Katelyn Behymer (right) of Anchorage win this week’s vaccine lottery college scholarship sweepstakes. (Photo provided)
Dillingham and Anchorage residents win 6th vaccine lottery

“Get it done,” one winner said. “Protect us all, protect our elders and our grandchildren.”

Kenai Vice Mayor and council member Bob Molloy (center), council member Jim Glendening (right), council member Victoria Askin (far right), and council member Henry Knackstedt (far left) participate in a work session discussing the overhaul of Kenai election codes on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska.
Kenai City Council gives sendoffs, certifies election results

Both council members-elect — Deborah Sounart and James Baisden — attended Wednesday.

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. (CDC)
COVID is No. 3 underlying cause of death among Alaskans so far this year

The virus accounted for about 7.5% of all underlying causes of death after a review of death certificates.

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, speaks on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives during a floor debate on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021, over an appropriations bill during the Legislature’s third special session of the summer. Multiple organizations reported on Wednesday that Eastman is a lifetime member of the far-right organization the Oath Keepers. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Data leak shows state rep is member of far-right organization

Wasilla area lawmaker said he joined when Oath Keepers first started.

Christine Hutchison, who lives in Kenai and also serves on the Kenai Harbor Commission, testifies in support of the use of alternative treatments for COVID-19 during a meeting of the Kenai City Council on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Medical liberty’ petition brought to Kenai City Council

Some members of the public and Kenai City Council spoke against health mandates and in support of alternative treatments for COVID-19

Amber Kraxberger-Linson, a member of Trout Unlimited and streamwatch coordinator for the Chugach National Forest, works in the field in this undated photo. Kraxberger-Linson will be discussing at the Saturday, Oct. 23 International Fly Fishing Film Festival the organization’s educational programming for next summer. (Photo provided by Trout Unlimited)
Out on the water — and on the screen

Trout Unlimited to host fly fishing film festival Saturday.

This screen capture from surveillance footage released by the Anchorage Police Department shows a masked man vandalizing the Alaska Jewish Museum in Anchorage in May. (Courtesy photo / APD)
Museums statewide condemn antisemitic vandalism

Two incidents, one in May, one in September, have marred the museum this year.

Three speech language pathologists with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District were recognized for excellence during the Alaska Speech-Language-Hearing Association last month. (Kenai Peninsula Borough School District)
Peninsula speech language therapists awarded for excellence

“I was very honored to be recognized by my peers and colleagues,” Evans said in an interview with the Clarion.

Most Read