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Ferguson Approves Reforms, Crowd Demands Answers

The city will ease court fees and eliminate outstanding warrants, but some said it's not enough in the wake of Michael Brown's shooting.
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Ferguson City Council Tuesday night passed bills that seek to end excessive court fees for low-income residents, establish a citizen review board to oversee the police, and limit fines — measures announced in a bid to defuse tensions in the St. Louis suburb paralyzed by unrest over the fatal police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown last month.

But some in the crowd were not satisfied, with groups at the Greater Grace Church interrupting the meeting by raising their hands in the air, as some witnesses say Michael Brown did before he was shot by a police officer Aug. 9, and shouting “We’re fired up, can’t take no more!”

City officials capped court fine revenue at 15 percent of the city’s annual revenue, which Mayor James Knowles said should encourage judges to hand down other punishments, like community service. Another program will eliminate some outstanding warrants.

A grand jury is still hearing evidence and has not determined whether to charge the officer who shot Brown, Darren Wilson. But many in the crowd demanded answers. Some said the government had lost its authority and should resign. “Why was there no accountability among the people up there? It could have been so simple; none of us would be here if the police chief … would have come forward and said, ‘We apologize. This was handled wrong’,” one young woman told the council. “There was nothing. You showed up on Canfield in riot gear.”



— Phil Helsel