Democracy works when people take the time to go to the polls and vote. It’s just unfortunate that it took the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown last year and worldwide media coverage of the protests, arrests, property damage and violence in Ferguson, Mo., to make it happen.
On Tuesday, close to 30 percent of the registered voters in Ferguson cast ballots in the St. Louis suburb’s municipal elections. It resulted in history being made with two African Americans winning City Council seats.
Ella Jones, the first black woman elected to the council, and Wesley Bell, will join Dwayne James, the only black councilman who was not up for re-election. That gives African Americans control of half of the six seats on the Ferguson City Council in the town of 21,000 residents — 67 percent are black.
The election gained worldwide attention after the Aug. 9 fatal police shooting of Brown. He was black; then-Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson is white.
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The slaying led to ongoing protests, many violent, leading to property damage and dozens of arrests. But it also led to voter registration efforts, which may account for voter turnout in Tuesday’s election being more than double last April’s mayoral election.
Although no state or civil rights charges were filed in Brown’s death, the slaying resulted in a scathing Justice Department report on the Ferguson Police Department. The six-month investigation found that officers habitually violated African Americans’ constitutional rights and used the black population as a city revenue source because of traffic stops, tickets, fines and court costs.
Racial profiling was a key part of police operations. The city manager, municipal judge and police chief all resigned after the report came out.
The new City Council will have to pick their replacements. For the first time, African Americans will have a strong voice in the type of government they want for Ferguson now and into the future.