Ferguson Activists Remain Focused Despite New Tensions With Police

Ferguson authorities remain on the hunt for anyone with information regarding the Thursday shooting of two St. Louis area police officers. The shooting occurred amidst ongoing demonstrations and a number of noteworthy developments surrounding a federal investigation into the August, 2014, shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

Although a Department of Justice report released earlier this week cast doubt on the accuracy of some eyewitness accounts of the shooting, the government agency acknowledged a pervasive and detrimental culture of racism in the Ferguson Police Department. Some of the city’s highest officials, including Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson, resigned in the wake of the release of the report.

The substantive findings of the Justice Department’s report and the resignations that followed brought about feelings of cautious optimism for the activists who have maintained a prominent presence in Ferguson since the events of last summer. But the shooting now threatens to undermine the uneasy coexistence of law enforcement and activists on the city streets. Rasheen Aldridge, Director of Young Activists of St. Louis, told USA Today that the incident presents new challenges to those who seek to bring about awareness and change through protest.

“For the last 215 days, we have been out here peacefully organizing and peacefully protesting and it’s starting to show off,” said Aldridge. “The hard work that the young people have been doing, putting their lives and their jobs on the line is really starting to pay off. We really have an uphill battle and this is not something we needed.”

Nevertheless, activists regrouped quickly after the incident, determined to present an ongoing narrative focusing on the pressing matters of race relations, class distinctions, and the role of law enforcement in American society.

NBC News reported that a candlelight vigil was held by group of activists in the hours following the shooting. Expressions of hope were offered for the wounded officers and their families, as well as for the protesters and for the entire country. Reverend Traci Blackmon spoke at the vigil, expressing frustration towards those responsible for the attack on police while reminding her fellow protesters why they have assembled in Ferguson.

“Whoever was the culprit last night did not come from this community,” Reverend Blackmon said. “We will not be moved. We will not give up.”

Another vigil was held Thursday evening and video from that gathering was posted online via social media outlets.

St. Louis Regional CrimeStoppers is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those involved in the shooting.

[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]

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