Ferguson election: St Louis suburb elects two new black councillors months after Michael Brown shooting

Election brings number of black councillors up to three in a six-member council

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In its first municipal election since the shooting of black teenager Michael Brown, the St Louis suburb of Ferguson has elected two new African-American council members, meaning there will now be three black representatives on the six-member city council.

Two-thirds of the town’s 21,000 residents are black, yet until now only two black members have ever served on the council, one of whom is a current incumbent. Four of the eight candidates vying for the three open seats at Tuesday’s election were black, including the two men who ran in Ferguson’s third ward, which includes the Canfield neighbourhood where Mr Brown was shot.

According to the St Louis Post-Dispatch, Wesley Bell, the professor and local magistrate who won the Ward Three race, told supporters following the result: “This is the largest turnout ever in Ward Three... When our city needs it most, you showed up.” Under the national spotlight, Ferguson more than doubled its average voter turnout, which in past years has hovered at around 12 per cent. This week, 29 per cent of registered voters cast a ballot.

Mr Brown, 18, was shot dead last August by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer, an incident that led to weeks of racial unrest on the streets of the troubled Missouri community. Officer Wilson, 28, resigned his post in November, after a St Louis grand jury declined to indict him for the killing. The grand jury decision sparked another round of rioting in Ferguson and several other US cities, and further intensified a fraught national conversation about race and policing.

A recent report from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) found glaring racial bias in Ferguson’s police and judicial system. The report forced the resignation of several city leaders, including municipal judge Ronald Brockmeyer and controversial police Chief Thomas Jackson. The new city council will be responsible for implementing the recommendations in the DOJ report, including hiring and training new police officers, as well as transforming the entire local policing system to ensure it no longer unnecessarily targets African-American residents.