Petition For Mayor James Knowles Of Ferguson To Be Recalled Is Now Underway
It's a bad time to a city official in Ferguson, Missouri. After an apparent years-long stretch of racist policing, over-ticketing, and over-fining of residents, and a laissez-faire attitude towards all of it, the Department of Justice's damning report on the situation in Ferguson has already sent some major figures packing (city manager John Shaw and police chief Tom Jackson, for example, who've already both resigned). It's made people wonder whether Ferguson's mayor might follow suit, but he's steadfastly insisted he won't be leaving. At least, not without a fight: a petition for Mayor James Knowles to be recalled is now underway.
Of all the people central to the controversy and scandal in Ferguson over the last several months, Knowles is admittedly a curious case. Despite being the mayor, he hasn't been quite as visible in addressing the situation in Ferguson as he might have — Jackson, Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, and even Governor Jay Nixon took starring turns on a scale he never attempted. Knowles told the AP Saturday that the mayoral role isn't as powerful or significant in Ferguson as in some cities, essentially a sort of part-time ceremonial position (he reportedly earns just $4,200 per year from it).
But that doesn't excuse him from accountability, at least not to the minds of five anonymous residents. They've reportedly filed an affidavit to have Knowles recalled, meaning they've got two months to scrape together signatures from at least 15 percent of the voters in Knowles' last election.
As ABC News details, the five hitherto unnamed Ferguson residents haven't spared him any criticism — they sent a letter to Knowles, and to the city council, that said "we cannot describe how disgusted we are with you."
Knowles is, to put it lightly, not a popular man with the protest movement that's now centered out of his city. And that makes sense, frankly, after months of tension and confrontation with a militarized police force, and a lack of clarity about who exactly was calling the shots. His tone-deafness didn't help matters much, either — back in August, he insisted that there was "no racial divide" in Ferguson, and claimed that perspective was shared by "all residents in our city, absolutely." It was, to be blunt, a flatly ridiculous claim at the time. Considering the streets of Ferguson were full of predominantly black crowds protesting against racial bias in policing, Knowles' insistence defied belief.
And that's before even broaching whether he knew about the police department's problems with racism, both personal and systemic. Essentially, the question is whether he was naive or ignorant to the situation when he denied any racial divide, or whether he was trying to hide it. And for anyone who wants him out, either version is probably a firing offense.
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