Voters in Ferguson, Missouri – a United States city thrust into the international spotlight six years ago by a fatal police shooting of a young Black man – elected the city’s first African American mayor on Tuesday.
Ella Jones, a member of the Ferguson City Council, will become the St Louis, Missouri suburb’s first Black mayor and its first female mayor. Jones beat fellow council member Heather Robinett in the non-partisan election for a three-year term that starts later this month. Incumbent James Knowles III could not run again due to term limits.
A resident of Ferguson for more than 40 years, Jones is also a pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She won with 54 percent of the vote.
Protests following the 2014 fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown thrust Ferguson into the national spotlight. They also helped solidify the Black Lives Matter movement formed in the wake of the death of Black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida two years earlier and the acquittal of the neighbourhood watch volunteer who shot him.
Ferguson elected its first Black mayor tonight, meet Mayor-elect, Mrs. Ella Jones. pic.twitter.com/UglVpk3tad
— Marquis Govan (@marquis_govan) June 3, 2020
“It’s just our time,” Jones said in an interview with the St Louis Post-Dispatch on Tuesday night. “It’s just my time to do right by the people.”
Asked what her election means for Ferguson’s Black residents, she responded: “One word: inclusion.”
As happened in many other cities across the US, Ferguson officials declared a state of emergency and issued a curfew in recent day as protests over police brutality and the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis have continued.
Jones’s election continues a significant increase in African American political influence in the city in recent years. In 2014, there was just one Black council member. Now there are four out of six, including Jones. Residents also elected the first majority Black school board in Ferguson’s history on Tuesday.
The shooting of Brown, a Black teen, by a white Ferguson police officer prompted an investigation by the US Department of Justice that resulted in a consent agreement reached in 2016 that requires significant changes in the city, including municipal court reforms, community policing efforts, hiring more minority officers and improved policies in areas such as use of body cameras and search-and-seizure practices.
Both Jones, 65, and Robinett, 49, said that if elected, they would help Ferguson continue implementing the changes outlined in the agreement.