Change could be on the horizon for Ferguson. After months of unrest following the August shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown, the city is holdings its first elections for three city council seats. The results of today’s elections could be the first step in ending a deep-seated pattern of discrimination within city limits.
Eight candidates—four of whom are Black—are competing for the three seats on the six-member council, which is responsible for filling the government positions that have been vacated since the shooting, including a new police chief and city manager. They will also be tasked with overseeing structural changes, such as retraining police officers and helping to restore public trust.
Currently, there is only one Black person serving on the city council (there have only been two in the city’s 121-year history). However, that will change after today: Professor Wesley Bell and Pastor Lee Smith, both Black, are running for the same district seat.
Though multiple candidates have supported the ongoing #BlackLivesMatter protests, there are others who strongly oppose the movement, including candidate Mike McGrath, who has openly dismissed the Department of Justice’s report that found that city officials have routinely discriminated against Black residents.
“This may be a little municipal election, but city council can have a tremendous impact in the community,” said Denise Lieberman, a Ferguson attorney who has helped supervise a voter protection program, to Reuters. “These local leaders make important and significant decisions that affect the day-to-day lives of people.”