Saint Louis, Mo. — Nearly 20 elected officials from city to state senate attended a meeting at the Carr Square Tenant Association in downtown St. Louis on Thursday evening.
State Senator Jamilah Nasheed organized the event on short notice, hoping to host the first of many meetings with lawmakers both from Jefferson City and from the City and County of St. Louis. Elected officials from around St. Louis came to discuss the shooting of unarmed Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson and the aftermath in Ferguson.
State Reps. Vicki Englund, Margo McNeil, Jeff Roorda, Penny Hubbard, and House Speaker Tim Jones were all in attendance, along with their colleagues from the Senate. Nasheed was joined by Sens. Scott Sifton and Eric Schmitt as well.
Shane Cohn and Tammika Hubbard, both serving on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, were also there with several members of the board, as well as a few local committeewomen. In total, about 20 lawmakers from various levels of government showed up.
“This is probably the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a regional government working group,” Sifton said during the meeting, which lasted about 90 minutes.
Nasheed opened the meeting discussing her letter to St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch. Nasheed’s letter demands that McCulloch recuse himself from the Ferguson investigation and allow a special prosecutor to oversee the case.
“I just think we need to be prepared for not only what’s going on now, but for what’s gonna happen as we potentially get to a verdict,” Nasheed said. “If this is ruled as a justified shooting, then I think the backlash from the community is going to be very serious, because they’ve lost faith in [McCulloch] and they don’t trust him.”
Lawmakers spent most of the meeting brainstorming ways to make positive changes with regard to race, police brutality, and civil protest. Nasheed said she was hoping to bring in experts to help better teach locals in Ferguson how to protest.
Most of the leaders in the room agreed there were two primary areas of concern: short term safety of police and demonstrators in Ferguson, and long term community changes that needed to take place to diffuse the tension.
“I’d like us to think about building bridges between law enforcement officers and the communities they protect,” Roorda said. “I think I could help with that process. One of the problems you have in places like this is that law enforcement and local folks just don’t understand each other.”
The group also asked everyone to donate whatever money they had on hand so that someone could supply water and snacks to the Ferguson demonstrators. Nasheed and the group floated several ideas for potential action lawmakers can take. Everything from lapel cameras on officers to expunging non-violent federal criminal records to a commission to study police tactics and militarization was suggested.
House Speaker Tim Jones said he felt both protestors and law enforcement had made many mistakes in the past days and agreed that a firm plan of action was needed to be in place in the event that Wilson is cleared of all wrongdoing.
Nasheed said the glimmer of hope in the entire situation was that meetings across levels of government with both political parties at the table would always help bring about the best solutions.
“This is a setback. But I just see a setback as a set up for a comeback,” Nasheed said.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.