(Maurice Brown raises his arms during a public comments portion of a Sept. 9, 2014, meeting of the Ferguson City Council. Photo: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
Since the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last August, local activists have been working to mend the city's deep racial divide.
However, as the Associated Press reports, despite activists' best efforts to oust elected leaders and encourage residents to become more politically engaged following the unarmed teenager's death, only a few prospective candidates have filed for the city's first municipal election since the incident.
The eight residents who declared themselves as candidates earlier this week are hoping to win one of the three seats available in the St. Louis suburb's six-seat City Council on April 7. Among the group of new candidates is Wesley Bell, a 40-year-old criminal justice instructor and municipal court judge, and a former Ferguson mayor, Brian Fletcher, who spearheaded the "I Love Ferguson" campaign to improve the city's image.
Currently, only one city council member is Black, although African-Americans constitute 70 percent of Ferguson's population.
Activists spoke with the AP about the low turnout, pointing to residents' disillusion with local politics.
"Ferguson really gave us an idea of what the City Council's powers are — it's not much. And there's a realization that the system has failed Black America at large. So why operate in a system that does not work?" Ashley Yates, protest leader and co-founder of Millenial Activists United, told the AP. "It's more about building power within our own community."
Mayor James Knowles, who is white and plans to run for a third term despite backlash, voiced a different opinion of how Ferguson residents regard local politics: "The council can still be responsive to the city without the customary 'heads have to roll' response," Knowles told AP. "If that's what the citizens of Ferguson demanded, there would be at least one person running under the banner of, 'They all have to go.' And that's just not happened."
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