Since making national headlines last summer—after police officer Darren Wilson shot unarmed black teen Michael Brown—Ferguson will hold its first election Tuesday: three city council seats are up for grabs.
If two of the three seats are filled by black candidates, the city council will become 50 percent black, which has never before happened in Ferguson's history despite two-thirds of residents being African American.
Low voter turnout has long plagued the small St. Louis suburb, where whites hold nearly all executive government positions and make up the bulk of local law enforcement. Typically less than 25 percent of Ferguson's 15,000 qualified voters make it to the polls, but many are hoping this year will be different given the events of the previous nine months. According to Reuters, voter registration has spiked 4.6 percent since August.
The Justice Department's report released last month is partly why today's election has more than symbolic meaning for Wesley Bell, who is running for a seat in ward where Brown was fatally shot. He, like other townspeople, believes this election is a chance to enact delayed political action, and an opportunity to give voice to those who have been without it for decades.
The report confirmed what many residents knew to be true for generations: the existence of a brutal and unfair police force. "One cannot feel good about living under gangsters, and that is the reality of Ferguson right now," The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote of Ferguson PD in March.
One account (out of many) from the Justice Department's findings made note of the explicit racial bias against black residents.
We spoke with one African-American man who, in August 2014, had an argument in his apartment to which FPD officers responded, and was immediately pulled out of the apartment by force. After telling the officer, “you don’t have a reason to lock me up,” he claims the officer responded: “N*****, I can find something to lock you up on.” When the man responded, “good luck with that,” the officer slammed his face into the wall, and after the man fell to the floor, the officer said, “don’t pass out motherf****r because I’m not carrying you to my car.”
Combined, eight candidates—four white, four black—are running for the three city council seats. No incumbents are running.
[Image via Getty]