CBN News, ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Residents in Ferguson, Missouri, are bracing for backlash as they wait for a grand jury decision on whether Officer Darren Wilson should stand trial in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
Many like Susan Ankenbrand want to move beyond the violence, protests and hatred.
Love for the city of Ferguson is written across her face — and spelled out for all to see on her “I Love Ferguson” T-shirt.
“There’s just so much heart in this community that’s hard to portray,” she said.
But that’s not the picture most people see after this summer’s protests and riots following the death of Brown, a black teen shot and killed by Wilson, a white police officer.
Former Mayor Brian Fletcher started the “I love Ferguson” campaign in part to change the city’s public perception.
But it’s not just the city’s reputation that’s taken a hit. The local economy has too.
Fletcher’s campaign is also helping area businesses beaten and broken down during the riots. So far, his group has donated thousands of dollars to help them rebuild.
While some businesses are gone for good, others still show the scars — open for business, but boarded up with plywood.
Fletcher blames those he calls “professional protesters” for stirring up trouble.
“Very few Ferguson residents have been arrested from the unrest,” he said. “Not that we don’t have any residents that are protesting. We do, but they’re being the peaceful protesters. They’re not causing the problems.”
Rick Canamore is one of the peaceful. He’s protested across from the police department since August. He says justice doesn’t demand violence.
“I think we can do the civil disobedience, we can protest and we can make our voices be heard without tearing down the city,” he said.
As someone who’s familiar with the city’s history, Fletcher acknowledges the problems and disparities between whites and blacks, but he says others are projecting national problems onto one St. Louis suburb of 20,000 people.
“They’re using this as an example of what injustice has been done to African-Americans and have been throughout history. And I certainly can understand and agree with some of those. But the back of Ferguson I don’t think is large enough to handle all the problems of the nation,” Fletcher told CBN News.
While everyone has been watching Ferguson, the focus has shifted to the county courthouse in Clayton, Missouri, were a grand jury will decide whether to indict Officer Wilson on possible charges of murder – or find no probable cause if jurors believe he acted out of self-defense or feared for his life.
Report via CBN News