ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR) - Governor Nixon announced the appointment of a new “Ferguson Commission,” Tuesday, charged with addressing a wide range of race relations issues that most feel are at the core of the unrest that followed the shooting of Michael Brown in August.
The sixteen member commission includes a former Hazelwood mayor, the former chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police, a young Ferguson protester, and members of the clergy and business community. Nixon says their task presents a difficult, uphill climb.
“Change of this magnitude is hard but maintaining the status quo is simply not acceptable.”
The appointments come with a backdrop of uncertainty and fear surrounding the situation in Ferguson. 24 hours earlier, Nixon had activated the Missouri National Guard and declared a state of emergency in anticipation of unrest expected if Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson is not indicted in connection with the killing of Brown. Many residents believe the National Guard mobilization is premature, and insulting.
“Bringing the National Guard in is overkill,” Ferguson resident Sheldon Scott said. “You’re telling the people that, ‘I don’t trust you to be as smart as you think you are.’ This is my take on it. ‘I am gonna put the national guard in place so we can make you feel a little less competent.’”
But the governor said, logistically, it has to be that way.
“As part of our ongoing efforts to prepare for any contingency it’s necessary to have resources in place in advance of any announcement of the grand jury’s decision.”
Nixon bristled at one point when a well-known protest leader, who attended the news conference, accused Nixon of “preparing for war.”
“I’m not preparing for war,” the Governor responded, “ I’m preparing for peace. I’m preparing for order and peace. And our goal here is to have peace and maintain peace.”
But in Ferguson, where Christmas decorations now adorn North Florissant Road near the police station, there is a clear feeling of unease as they hope that peace can somehow be preserved.
“It’s very unnerving to me. Yes,” Ferguson resident Dorothy King said. Her worry:
“That people can be hurt. And I don’t like that. I love people. And I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
A Ferguson Commission website gives the biographies of all the members.
The Co-Chairpersons are:
- Rev. Starsky Wilson, president and CEO of the Deaconess Foundation;
- Rich McClure, chairman of the St. Louis Regional Board of Teach for America
The members are:
- Rev. Traci deVon Blackmon , Christ the King United Church of Christ in North County
- Daniel Isom, head of the Missouri Department of Public Safety and former St. Louis police chief
- Scott Negwer, president of Ferguson-based Negwer Materials
- Bethany A. Johnson-Javois, CEO of the non-profit St. Louis Integrated Health Network
- Gabriel E. Gore, partner at St. Louis-based law firm Dowd Bennett
- Brittany N. Packnett, executive director for Teach For America in St. Louis
- Rose A. Windmiller, an assistant vice chancellor at Washington University
- Rasheen Aldridge Jr., a student and activist
- Grayling Tobias, superintendent of the Hazelwood School District
- Becky James-Hatter, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri
- Felicia Pulliam, FOCUS St. Louis
- Sgt. Kevin Ahlbrand, St. Louis Police Detective
- Patrick Sly, who manages the Emerson Charitable Trust
- Truman Robert “T.R.” Carr, a former mayor of Hazelwood and professor at SIU-Edwardsville.