Photo credit: Whitney Curtis/The New York Times
On Tuesday, Missouri voters elected Ferguson City Councilman Wesley Bell as St. Louis County's next prosecuting attorney during its Democratic primary election. After defeating 27-year veteran to the office, Bob McCulloch, Bell is set to become the first African American prosecuting attorney to serve in St. Louis County.
The city of Ferguson, Missouri garnered national attention back in August of 2014 when unarmed Black teenager, Michael Brown, was fatally shot by a white Ferguson police officer. Local and national outrage ensued as details of the case unfolded. During November 2014, McCulloch ultimately announced that a grand jury decided against the prosecution of the officer who fired the shots killing Brown. Speculation around McCulloch’s actions during the aftermath of the shooting resulted in many Ferguson citizens and critics believing that he had mishandled the investigation that swayed the grand jury to conclude and decide as they had.
Bell, 43, was serving his second term as city councilman for the City of Ferguson when he decided to pursue election into the prosecutor’s office. He ran on the platform points of seeking bail reform for minor offenses, ending mass incarceration and the death penalty, and engaging the community by building trust through transparency. He also leveraged his experiences negotiating the Ferguson consent decree and his involvement with the creation of a program to clear the names of people with outstanding warrants in Velda City, Missouri. He touted himself as a ‘reformer’ who is committed to changing his local criminal justice system in the aftermath of such a high-profile case and many others that never make the news yet the outcome remains the same.
Bell received many endorsements from progressive groups who seek to back reform-minded candidates and assist them with becoming elected. Groups including: political activist Shaun King’s Real Justice and Color of Change both endorsed Bell during his recent campaign. McCulloch conceded to defeat late last evening. Since a Republican primary election was not held, Bell will not face a Republican opponent in November’s general election.
“This ousting of a 27-year incumbent shows the country what Black voters have demonstrated for decades — that we demand to be heard and that we will make criminal justice reform a ballot-box issue in 2018 and beyond," shared Color of Change spokesperson, Rashad Robinson.
The City of Ferguson has spoken and have turned out to usher in a new era of justice in their community. Congratulations, Councilman Bell!