Sat | Feb 22, 2020

Ferguson wounds still fresh

Published:Monday | July 25, 2016 | 12:00 AM
In this November 25, 2014 file photo, people watch as stores burn in Ferguson, Missouri. The four Republican candidates in Missouri's gubernatorial primary on August 2, 2016, are pledging an aggressive law-and-order approach, two years after the fatal Ferguson police shooting of Michael Brown prompted widespread protests. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)


It has been two years since a white police officer fatally shot black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, touching off days of rioting.

But the political repercussions from the incident have only intensified, fanned by a governor's race in which all four Republican candidates are pledging an aggressive law-and-order approach. Their TV ads show images of angry protesters and burning buildings and vehicles. They denounce "lawlessness" and "chaos" while promising to "secure our streets" and "enforce the law."

Absent from the ads is any reference to community complaints after the Brown shooting that police discriminate against black residents. The candidates also show no indication that they believe black students were justified in launching protests over racial issues that toppled the administration of the University of Missouri last year.

The campaign approach appears to be playing well with the mostly white rural and suburban residents who will comprise the majority of voters in the August 2 Republican primary.

But the political recriminations have been especially strong in Missouri, where the Brown shooting in August 2014 honed the nation's attention on racial relations with police. Brown, 18, was shot after struggling with an officer who confronted him in a street after a convenience store theft. The US Justice Department and a state grand jury both declined to press charges.

The Republican candidates include Hanaway, Lt Gov Peter Kinder, former Navy SEAL officer Eric Greitens, and former Marine and businessman John Brunner. All have criticised outgoing Democrat Jay Nixon for not being more publicly visible or forceful in Ferguson or the University of Missouri when protests occurred.

The tough talk has failed to address the concerns of many minorities, said state Rep. Shamed Dogan, the lone black Republican in the 197-seat Missouri Legislature.

He said the candidates' rhetoric suggests that "any criticisms you have of law enforcement are illegitimate, which is not the case," Dogan said. "There's a lot of serious reasons for the lack of trust in lots of communities."