Ferguson mayor: Our eyes opened to racial problems

Ferguson mayor: Our eyes opened to racial problems


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FERGUSON, Missouri (CNN) — Ahead of a town hall meeting Tuesday night, Ferguson's mayor said the aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown helped open the eyes of city officials to the town's racial divide.

"I think what it showed was ... even though I always knew again that African-Americans had experiences that were frustrating, definitely frustrating, many of that never bubbled to the surface. So I think what really opened my eyes was how significant that can be for many people," Mayor James Knowles said.

Police Chief Thomas Jackson echoed the mayor's sentiment.

"The things that have bubbled up since the shooting have really made us sit up and take notice and realize that there is a lot more work to be done," Jackson said.

One of those things that need to be done is community outreach, Jackson said; it's one of the steps that the police department and the local government need to take for Ferguson to be more cohesive.

Protests erupted last month after Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson's fatal shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown. They devolved into nights of looting, vandalism and violence before the tenor of the protests eventually calmed.

Jackson has tried to reach out more to residents, sometimes going to the daily protests in the city streets.

One of those trips didn't go well. After issuing an apology Thursday, Jackson went to dialogue with demonstrators, but not everyone was eager to hear from him.

"If you are not resigning tonight, go home," said one man on a bullhorn.

It was shortly after Jackson agreed to walk and talk with the demonstrators that a scuffle broke out somewhere behind the chief, and officers moved in to make arrests. There was no indication that Jackson was threatened, but he was quickly escorted inside a building.

For several hours, police officers stood shoulder to shoulder in front of the police department with protesters a short distance away, some milling about and others chanting.

On Tuesday, Jackson said he'll still go down to the protests.

"I don't think it's ever a mistake for me to engage people are trying to talk to me and my police department and my city," he said. "I think it's important to keep those lines of communication open. So if some people want to turn it into a hostile situation, that's their fault, not mine. But I wish it would have turned out better than it did."

The things that have bubbled up since the shooting have really made us sit up and take notice and realize that there is a lot more work to be done.

–Police Chief Thomas Jackson

The chief blamed outsiders for the trouble.

Last week, Jackson said he wouldn't resign, and the mayor, who was re-elected in April, said Tuesday that now is not the time for that kind of change.

"We're moving forward as a community. If we change up now, I don't know that that is going to help us down the road," he said.

The town hall meeting, which is closed to the media, comes two nights after the most recent violent protests.

Protests come to the police station

Eight people were arrested outside the police department on Sunday night when demonstrations grew violent again, police say.

Each was charged with failure to disperse and resisting arrest, Lt. Ron Miesner of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said.

Only one of those arrested was from Ferguson; the others were from elsewhere in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Three were from St. Louis, one was from Richmond Heights, one was from Florissant, one was from Bridgeton, and one was homeless, he said.

Last week, the burning of a memorial near the site where Brown was killed reignited the demonstrations.

Sunday night's protests unfolded in front of the police station, about 2 miles from the five-lane drag that typically plays host to the demonstrations.

Although previous protests at the police station have been largely peaceful, some demonstrators among a crowd of about 150 people began throwing rocks and bottles at officers about 10 p.m., according to CNN affiliate KTVI.

No injuries were reported. The eight people arrested were taken to a nearby jail, booked and released, KTVI reported.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz, Eliott C. McLaughlin, Jason Kravarik, Shawn Nottingham, Ben Brumfield and Carma Hassan contributed to this report.

The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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