Ferguson Braces for First Anniversary of Michael Brown’s Death

Ferguson, Mo., officials are not planning any kind of a memorial ceremony to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown on Aug. 9, but there will be a job fair and the Ferguson Youth Initiative, an organization that posts a list of Safe Places where children can run to avoid violence, will hold its monthly Youth Advisory Board meeting.

Other than that, will it be just another summer weekend in Ferguson? Don’t bet on it. Ferguson may not be sponsoring an official memorial event, but church leaders told Reuters they are expecting “hundreds, if not thousands” of people to come to their city to mark the passing of the 18 year old who was shot to death by a police officer in 2014.

While that is going on in the foreground this weekend, a debate rages in the background over how to pay for a new stadium to keep the Rams NFL franchise in nearby St. Louis.

Antonio French, a St. Louis alderman, thinks it is unconscionable that a judge would have ruled there is no need to ask voters for approval to put up $300 million in state and city bonds, along with tax credits and other incentives to help pay for the $998 million stadium.

He told the left-wing blog Think Progress that is especially repulsive given what happened in Ferguson one year ago.

“When you look at the city of St. Louis and our needs, especially post-Ferguson, and the world seeing the issues here in the St. Louis region, for anyone to suggest that the billion dollar investment we need to make is in a football stadium is crazy,” French said.

French would much rather see that kind of investment made in the schools of Ferguson, especially the Normandy School District where Michael Brown graduated from high school only days before he was killed.

“Those of us who represent neighborhoods who have been struggling for many years, we know that people here have long felt abandoned and the issues that really mean life or death to them aren’t given the same attention by city leaders and state government,” French said.

The Normandy School District is in such bad shape that it lost its accreditation.

Three years ago, the school reported 285 discipline incidents that included the factors of drugs, weapons, and assaults. State educators said that might have been only a fraction of the cases because most go unreported. At any rate, there was only one other school in all of Missouri that was more violent in 2012.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in May that officials from Gov. Jay Nixon (D) to local school board members said they were ashamed at what was happening in the classrooms and hallways of Normandy High.

“If you have any sense of decency — shame is all you can feel if you allowed that to happen,” said Mike Jones of St. Louis, state board vice president. “Disappointment is too mild. We all ought to be ashamed. I am. There’s no excuse for it happening. There’s no excuse for not knowing about it. There’s something fundamentally wrong with a place that permits by omission or commission this set of circumstances.”