ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR) – The mayor of Ferguson says the future of Officer Darren Wilson, who shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in August, is uncertain, no matter what the grand jury decides in the case. The assertion takes a step back from reports indicating Wilson might be immediately reinstated should the grand jury acquit him.
Mayor James Knowles says it’s not that simple. “I don’t want people to think the day of the grand jury announcement he’s gonna be back, that he’s gonna be out there riding the beat. I mean there’s still going to be conversations whit him and others about what he wants to do.”
Asked if Wilson could realistically work as an officer in Ferguson again, Knowles said, “I think it would be difficult for him. I think he would find it difficult. Ultimately those are conversations we will have once we find out the true facts, the complete facts in the case.”
Those facts are expected to become more clear when the grand jury in the case returns, likely later this month. Of course many fear violence will follow should Wilson not be indicted.
It’s with that backdrop that several dozen Ferguson residents met Saturday for President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge.
It’s a national initiative calling for cities to develop strategies to help young people emerge from school with a high school diploma, job training , and a career. The lack of those things is blamed by many as a contributing factor to violence that exploded in the wake of the Brown shooting.
“It allows us an entry point to say this is what we need to help our residents,” resident Mary Weiskopf said of the summit.
Weiskopf is white. We spoke to her along with another resident, Felicia Pulliam, who is African-American. The two were very much in agreement that the meeting of residents from different walks of life can help both in the long term and the short term.
“What happened in our community is a tragedy, a horrible tragedy,” Weiskopf said, “and we need to learn from that. And the sadness that I have is that we didn’t learn from this so it didn’t have to happen, and the fear I have is that we won’t learn from it so it doesn’t happen again.”
Pulliam says such meetings are bringing out a sort of honesty that can bring people together.
“I think the difficulty has been the un-scathing of the wounds. Opening up for the broader community to just see and experience what life can be like in black and brown skin in this community and anywhere.”
The one thing missing from the meeting, however, was youth. There were few if any of the young men the program is aimed at helping in attendance. But the mayor believes the room was filled with the people who can do that work.
“We don’t have many young people here, but again, these are the people that are going to be helping the young people. These are the people that are going to be providing the resources.”
It would all be a step toward reshaping an image. They say it’s been hard to see Ferguson thrust into the national spotlight, suddenly synonymous with violence, and more.
“It’s kind of more synonymous to the point of racism and it’s hard,” Weiskopf said. “And it hurts.”
But the Saturday morning gathering, to them, is a sign of hope.
“This is inspiring. This makes everyone hopeful that we’re here together and we can figure it out. And I think we can do it, we just need to be courageous,” Pulliam said.