St. Louis alderman Antonio French, who has been documenting the rising tension in the suburb of Ferguson, criticized local authorities and administrators on Tuesday for poor communication with residents he described as justified in their anger over the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
“There is no trust between the Ferguson police department and the community at this point,” French told MSNBC host Chris Hayes. “And there’s not much trust with [the] St. Louis County police department and the community at this point. It’s only going to take an independent federal investigation to get these people what they want, which is justice for this young man that was murdered.”
French was speaking in front of a Ferguson Quik Trip which was vandalized and burned during the demonstrations following Brown’s shooting death last Saturday. At least one witness has come forward saying Brown was shot multiple times while attempting to surrender to an unidentified officer. Authorities have argued that Brown was shot following a struggle in which he entered the officer’s vehicle in an attempt to take his firearm.
The alderman has been posting video and pictures from Ferguson for the past two days, including footage of officers in riot gear aiming a weapon at him and telling him to “get the f*ck out” of the QuikTrip parking lot.
He also blamed local leaders for exacerbating their “disconnect” with angry residents, noting that the majority of people living in the area are Black, while the nearly all-white city government has been unable to empathize with them.
“At times, it should have been a soft hand, one of compassion reaching out to these young people — who are rightfully upset and frustrated,” French said of the response to the demonstrations. “Instead, they got a heavy-handed response, which I think made it worse.”
Hayes’ other guest, State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D), said she was “appalled” by authorities’ decision not to release the name of the officer who killed Brown.
“It’s unjustifiable,” she told Hayes. “How can you justify killing and shooting down a man in the middle of the street, execution-style, again, simply because his only crime was walking in the middle of the street wanting to visit his grandmother?”
Watch the discussion, as aired on Tuesday on MSNBC, below.