Missouri state Rep. Brandon Ellington (D) said Monday the caucus of African-American lawmakers he chairs supported the protesters in the streets of Ferguson “100 percent” as long as they remained peaceful.
“The Missouri Legislative Black Caucus stands in solidarity with those who choose to protest peacefully,” Ellington said in a statement released by the caucus.
“We urge all governmental bodies and law enforcement agencies to respect the constitutional, civil and human rights of those who protest peacefully,” he added.
Ellington criticized previous police action in the streets of Ferguson and decisions made by Gov. Jay Nixon (D-Mo.) to send National Guard troops to the city.
“As a caucus we denounce the militarization of the police and have voiced our concerns to the governor about the National Guard’s presence preemptively in the city of Ferguson,” Ellington said in the statement.
Ellington won’t like this.
Gov. Nixon is sending even more National Guard troops to Ferguson.
The morning after rioting broke out in Ferguson following the grand jury decision not to press charges against Officer Darren Wilson, Nixon’s office issued a statement saying the new troops would provide security at the Ferguson Police Department.
What some see as a militarized response to the Ferguson rioting is only part of Nixon’s strategy.
He has tried to do more than just put National Guard troops in the streets of Ferguson, where the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown and the grand jury’s decision not to prosecute sparked rioting.
Nixon appointed 16 people to the newly established Ferguson Commission on Nov. 18.
The panel, which includes civic, religious, business and government leaders from the Ferguson area, is charged with studying the underlying issues raised by events in Ferguson and issuing a report with specific policy recommendations no later than Sept. 15, 2015.
“While they are clearly a diverse group, they are united by their shared passion to promote understanding, to hasten healing, to ensure equal opportunities in education and employment, and to safeguard the civil rights of all our citizens,” Nixon said.
Richard McClure, co-chairman of the Ferguson Commission, said Brown’s shooting has exposed the problems faced by those who live in the Ferguson area.
“The significant challenges we face as a region have been vividly exposed by events in Ferguson. Committed and thoughtful citizens must identify necessary actions to take and polices that have to change,” said McClure.
Even though the Ferguson Commission is being funded by a $100,000 state appropriation, Nixon said the panel will operate independently and is “empowered” to recommend change.
“Their most important work will not be what is written on sheets of paper or on a website. Their most important work will be the changes we see in our institutions and our workplaces, in our communities and in our interactions with one another. Change of this magnitude is hard; but maintaining the status quo is simply not acceptable,” he added.
Nixon wants the Ferguson Commission to concentrate on citizen-law enforcement interaction and relations, racial and ethnic relations, municipal government organization and the municipal court system, and disparities in areas including education, economic opportunity, housing, transportation, healthcare, child care, business ownership, and family and community stability.
“I am called and have been blessed to serve children and youth of our region through engagement at the grass tops and grassroots of civic leadership,” said Rev. Starchy Wilson, a co-chairman of the Ferguson Commission.
“Effective investigation, assessment and response to the multiple structural challenges that led to and have been exposed by the Aug. 9 shooting (of Michael Brown) and its aftermath will require the perspective and credibility of both worlds,” Wilson added.
Nixon issued a statement immediately after the grand jury’s decision was announced, saying his “commitment to the people of the region and state is this: I will do everything in my power to keep you safe and protect your right to speak.”
Nixon also addressed the underlying issues that have led to the turmoil in the streets of Ferguson and said changes will have to be made.
“We must also make a commitment to one another: to trust more and fear less, to hold ourselves to a higher standard of personal responsibility and mutual respect, and to keep working to extend the promise of America to all our citizens,” Nixon said.
“It is my continued hope and expectation that peace will prevail. The world is watching.”