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Est. April 5, 2002
March 03, 2016 - Issue 643

Now Has a Majority
Black City Council


"A unanimous vote
against the DOJ’s consent decree
doesn’t exactly shout racial change."

It was no surprise that protests ripped through the first meeting of the Ferguson City Council since the Council voted down the consent decree offered by the Department of Justice. Last week’s act of defiance forced the DOF to file a lawsuit against the incorrigible municipality.
Loretta Lynch, head of the Department of Justice, responded to Ferguson city officials with harsh words. Remarking that Ferguson had missed an opportunity to step forward, Ms. Lynch declared the city had instead “turned backwards” and “chosen to live in the past.”
Claiming the DOJ changes would be too costly to the city, Ferguson city officials chose to spend millions of taxpayers’ dollars to fight the recommended changes, dollars that could go towards implementing a more just course for the municipality.
The unanimous decision by the City Council reneged on an agreement with the DOJ that was months in the making. The about-face was an arrogant indication that city officials were steadfastly committed to past practices and policies of racial discrimination.
The latest action is part of a saga that kicked off with the police murder of Mike Brown, Jr. in 2014.  The DOJ came in to investigate and found widespread abuses by the police department including illegal stops, searches and arrests. There was also issues of disproportionate use of canine dogs against black people (even children), retaliation for filing or threatening to file reports against police and the arbitrary use of stun guns.
The City Council’s vote and rationale is problematic on a number of levels. First, there is some fan-fare that the Council is now majority black for the first time in history, now reflecting the majority black population. A look around the country—including the White House—is proof that Black faces in high places does not mean necessarily material changes in the lives of black folks.
Two black members were voted in the 2015 election. Another seat opened up with the death a white council member in January. The appointment of Laverne Mitchom, an African American woman, was contentious. The initial vote to bring her on to the council was split along racial lines. The 6-0 vote against the DOJ’s consent decree caused some observers to conclude that the three black council members had to agree to vote against the decree in order for white members to vote for Mitchom.

There have been all kinds of allegations about the decision of the council. There is the belief that the mayor and his cronies inflated the cost of implementation in order to gain support by Ferguson residents. This was one of the big reasons cited for opposition to the decree. We can probably expect a more thorough investigation into the financial components by outside sources in the near future.
Since the decision to sue by the now infamous city was announced, many fair-minded people in the region and across the nation have been reacting to the news. The changes in police and court procedures made since the Brown shooting have been seen by most observers as largely superficial and inadequate given the persistent and protracted racism in Ferguson.
What remains curious to all those with eyes on Ferguson is that the current line-up of city officials and many employees had decades of knowledge regarding the police department’s terrorizing of black folks and the oppressive court system that used them as ATM machines. At any time these public servants could have intervened on the side of justice. Their actions may have even averted the police murder of an unarmed teen and a community uprising. It definitely would’ve made the intervention of the DOJ unlikely. Now that their racist patterns have been exposed, there is still no genuine effort to tackle the monster of white of supremacy.
According to the DOJ, Ferguson has violated the constitutional rights of its majority black population—the First, Fourth and 14 Amendments. The Department has documented that city and non-city African Americans are treated like second class citizens. The action of Ferguson officials and some white citizens affirms that they plan to uphold the status quo. White residents have been quoting as saying they’d rather lose their city than to concede to the DOJ demands.
We need a renewed focus on Ferguson to push it into the twenty-first century. Thousands participated in the Ferguson Commission process to dialogue about the racism plaguing Ferguson and other north county municipalities. The idea was to go forward on the “Path toward Racial Equality” as the Commission’s report was entitled. Thousands more moved to make officials accountable during the Radical Reconciliation activities last fall.
It’s time to re-engage and ramp up our organizing efforts to make the city responsible for its crimes and to work in earnest to rectify the serious violations of civil liberties along with constitutional and human rights. Editorial Board member and Columnist, Jamala Rogers, founder and Chair Emeritus of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis. She is an organizer, trainer and speaker. She is the author of The Best of the Way I See It – A Chronicle of Struggle.  Other writings by Ms. Rogers can be found on her blog jamalarogers.comContact Ms. Rogers and BC.




is published every Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

Ferguson is America: Roots of Rebellion by Jamala Rogers